succumbing to peer pressure

Sunday, August 01, 2004

More thoughts, quotes, and numbers from the conference

I haven't had a chance to look this up myself, but Lanny (the DGH founding president on whom I have a big, dorky crush) said in his opening remarks that the No Child Left Behind Act includes a line granting the Pentagon access to students' names and addresses, which can be used for military recruitment purposes. And if a school supervisor refuses to provide this information, they lose their public funding. Guardians can request that the information not be made available, but first they have to know that it's out there in the first place.

In a talk about globalization, current president Dr. Jennifer Kasper said that more than 80 countries have a lower per capita income today than they did a decade ago. So that whole global economy thing isn't really working out so well for everyone (read: developing nations). She also spoke about the importance of debt cancelation. Example: Nigeria took out a $5 billion loan (I don't have dates for these numbers, nor do I know if they are adjusted for inflation), has paid back $16 billion total, and thanks to interest, still owes $32 billion. How the hell does that work?

Keynote speaker #1, Dr. Reuben Granich, addressed the AIDS crisis. I've been lucky enough to hear him speak before (he guest lectured one of our health and human rights classes) and a group of us managed to rope him into sitting at our table for lunch. He has some amazing slides which he has promised to post online for us, and hopefully in the near future I'll link to a few of 'em. But the depressing statistic I want to offer up now is this: the World Health Organization set a goal of having 3 million people on anti-retroviral drugs by 2005. According to optimistic estimates, approximately 600,000 people are currently on ARVs. But hey, we have until the end of 2005 to get drugs to the other 2.5 million, so I'm sure we'll make it. Just keep that in mind the next time you hear a story on Mtv or NPR or CNN about how AIDS has become a "chronic" disease. Sure, it's sort of, kind of, a little bit like a chronic disease for those 600,000 people on ARVs, but a) in all likelihood, those individuals are still going to die of AIDS, and b) the vast majority of people with HIV/AIDS are not on ARVs.

I also lucked into sitting next to keynote speaker #2, Barbara Major, at dinner last night. That woman totally rules, and she's hysterical. A choice quote from her talk today, "All you need is a little sense to know shit ain't right!" (this was in response to the fact that she is not trained in medicine or public health or anything one would associate with her particular field; she runs a clinic in New Orleans). Her main thesis was that we need to work harder to convince disenfranchised populations that we're all being screwed by the same people. Stop the infighting between poor whites and poor blacks and poor hispanics and everyone else over the title of most marginalized population and get them all to work together and focus on the fact that we're all being screwed by the same people.

That's what I loved so much about the conference this weekend. It was all about grassroots community efforts and top-down big picture things too. i.e. you can't run an AIDS clinic without also addressing TB and malaria and the economy and gender equity and nutrition and the job market. Reuben spoke about sitting in meetings and asking, is that the suggestion you would make if you had AIDS? and people responding in total shock, like why would anyone frame the problem that way?

So yeah, Doctors for Global Health is an awesome organization that does good things. You should check 'em out.

Unrelatedly, my internet is sucking a little more than usual, so I think it's finally time to accept that I need to download the latest version of Mozilla (mine is pretty ancient). So here's a stupid question - will the new download automatically tranfer over my bookmarks, or should I save them somewhere else? And if so, how do I do that? I realize I could probably find this answer online somewhere, but I figure at least one of you probably knows.