Australia’s position on the neglected holocaust of AIDS, even in the immediate region, is overwhelmed by relentlessly beating the tribal drum about the spectre of global terrorism. This continues to eclipse the challenge of the HIV/AIDS pandemic from the collective consciousness. It also minimises the inconvenience to the government of recognising that to lead a substantive response to the challenge would require an overdue leap in funding research and treatment. The harsh reality, according to estimates from UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, is that it will not be numerous decades before AIDS-related mortality will reach a hundred million people.
From its rather apocalyptic beginnings twenty-five years ago, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has generated its prophets and dissenters, heroes and heretics. At the beginning, the prophets were those who predicted a holocaust, as the mysterious disease baptised Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome in January 1983 spread from homosexual men to haemophiliacs, blood transfusion recipients, women and children. The heroes were the scientists and courageous activists who called attention to the impending holocaust and provided funding for research to identify and genetically fingerprint the serial killer. The Reagan administration and a compliant US Congress became the first holocaust deniers by remaining silent about the predictions and mortality rates.
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