Well, is it an epidemic or isn't it? Does HIV always lead to AIDS?
Do the drug companies focus only on treatment and not cure? Is there any
truth in the rumour that men of Anglo-Saxon descent can't catch it? As
we begin a 3 part series on "the dread disease" this month there
seem to be more questions than answers.
Those who deny there is an epidemic in Thailand live mainly in Bangkok
and cite only the lack of "bodies on the streets" as evidence.
But a doctor in Fang shot that one down 5 years ago. "When anyone
becomes ill it is human nature for them to go home. The vast majority of
sex trade workers in the capital were born in this area or in Isaan. They
get ill, they come home, they die here or they recover and go back to Bangkok.
What is worse, some appear to recover, have sex here and infect other people
here before they die."
"Apart from old age and the occasional motorcycle accident, it's
the only thing people die from around here" agrees David Francis,
our correspondent in Chang Dao.
JUST LIKE THE REAL THING?
Click for larger photograph
Almost! This metal bas relief of a Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero-Sen actually
represents an aircraft of the 64th Sentai, wich was stationed here at Chiangmai.
Framed in dark Thai timber, each piece is numbered and only 1000 pieces
will ever be produced. Made by Thai craftsmen with care.
Here in Chiangmai city, I've known only 2 people who died from AIDS
in 7 years. One was a bar girl, but the other - as our main feature warns
- was a respectable woman who caught the infection from her "butterfly"
boyfriend. He is still alive and well.
This is such a vast subject there is always something amazing we can
learn. Many of the children under the care of our featured doctors actually
'lose' HIV over time and become totally free of the hazard! A bright, positive,
smiling attitude to life really does help, they say. I look forward to
learning more, as I hope you do.
With the worse-than-ever carnage on the roads over the holiday period,
worries about the future of the hilltribes, big drugs deals and corruption
- and a local murder still unsolved, that smiling attitude isn't easy for
many of us at present.
"Every murderer is probably somebody's old friend. You cannot
mix up sentiment and reason". Agatha Christie's fictitious detective
Hercule Poirot in 'The Mysterious Affair at Styles'.