Monday, March 12, 2007
While initially to response seemed luke-warmly positive, one question that seemed to be lingering was: since DuPage County has such a low disagnosis rate (average of 30 per year), how much effort should the health department put into this effort? (See: http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/napervillesun/news/285723,6_1_NA07_HIV_S1.article
A couple of thoughts about this:
- With an undiagnosed rate of between 30 and 50%, we know that there are more people out there. In Illinois, it is estimated that thereare 10,000 people undiagnosed. Each one has the potential to easily give the virus to someone else, which could bring this number to 20,000. If that process replicates one more cycle, we are all of a sudden at 40,000 cases (30,000 new infections plus the 10,000 undiagnosed). This is not to say that this will happen, but it certainly is in the realm of possibility. Most importantly, if we can promote global testing (and it has been demonstrated that this is more effectively done when community leaders get tested and promote it), we will certainly move closer to getting these undiagnosed folks in for testing.
- A few years ago, Senator Durbin commented to me that the government could not afford to promote universal testing. I don't think we can afford not to, given the high cost of treatment. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control is now encouraging all people to get tested.
- Even at an average of "only" 30 new cases per year, that's 30 families. And this also doesn't count the families of people who live out of DuPage County. And, with treatment costs of $20,000 per year, do the math. And, if you are one of the 30 (or families of those 30), or someone with HIV, or lost someone to AIDS, think how hurtful it is to know that your elected officials look at your life and pain as a statistic.
- Finally, when everyone gets an HIV test, it moves us all closer to the truth about our community. In the ethical analysis, doing this does no harm, and there is a community benefit. It is rare when the benefits so clearly outweigh the costs.
We certainly have our work cut out for us, but as Queen Latifah, fellow Rutgers grad, says in her new HBO film in which she plays an HIV/AIDS activist, "We will keep talking about this as long as people keep getting HIV".