Vague ramblings

AIDS to Ebola: Where’s the fairy princess?

Posted in Irritants, Life, Reason by Ian Cundell on 8 October, 2014


A sentence I never imagined I would write: we could do with Princess Diana right now.

In 1988 the Princess of Wales opened an AIDS daycare wing – The Kobler Centre – at St Stephen’s Hospital in London. While there – according to legend against the advice of her minders – she strode up to a patient and shook his hand, before sitting down and talking with him and others.

A reasonable case could be made that nobody did more to de-stigmatise AIDS and HIV than Diana. By confidently embracing sufferers she used her public presence and the affection with which she was widely held to help return AIDS victims their humanity.

How we could do with her like now.

Another ‘African plague’ is loose. Unlike AIDS, Ebola is horrifying in both the manner and the swiftness of its progress, and yet it is spread in strikingly similar ways: close contact and exchange of bodily fluid. It isn’t spread by rats, or birds, or the wind but in huts and hospitals where the latest biohazard precautions are simply not available. Some 10% of the victims of the current epidemic are health care workers.  And still, in Africa, AIDS is a massively bigger killer than Ebola (as are TB, malaria and many other well known conditions)

And already we have schools in Britain turning away visits because of the paranoia (Don’t ask me to grace it with the term “concern”).

AIDS paranoia happened before the era of 24 hours news and a tabloid journalism that has abandoned any pretence at reason, so it is doubtful a latter-day Diana, taking young Kofi Mason-Sesay by the hand, would be enough to prick the paranoid bubble. But somebody really needs to try, because it is all to easy to see where panic will end.

And it is very easy indeed to imagine who will be on the receiving end of that panic.


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