Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

pill taking in context

As my faithful readers are well aware, no doubt to the point of anaesthesia, I am firmly of the opinion that, while individual behaviors are a huge component of what makes us healthy and not healthy, it is inane to ascribe responsibility for such behaviors exclusively to the behaving individual. I'm not going to get all profound about this -- we can save the illlusion of free will for another time -- but we all obviously exist in context, social and physical, and our free will, real or illusory, floats on the currents of the subconscious, driven by the winds of the world. (Analogy borrowed from Archibald MacLeish.) Were it not so, tobacco and junk food manufacturers would not bother to advertise, as one simple example.

Anyway, it all gets very complicated and maybe not that easy for some people to understand when we come to the question of what the docs call Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). The facts known to science are that, untreated, HIV infection, in the vast majority of cases, invariably leads after some years to a truly unpleasant state of illness and a death you don't want to die. But, if you take some pills on time, every day -- typically, say, at 8:00 am and 8:00 pm -- for as long as you do so you are very likely not to experience any HIV disease symptoms at all and you will probably be able to live a perfectly good long life. There are side effects, which are worse for some people than for others, but with rare exceptions, they beat the alternative hands down.

Given those facts, most people who haven't tried it would say fine, I'd do it, what's the big deal? If I were to tell you that at any given time, something like 20% or 30% of the people who have prescriptions for these drugs aren't doing it sufficiently well, and that as time passes, more and more start to fail in the discipline, you might say WTF, it's their own damn fault, just give them a dope slap.

Well, a) that doesn't work and b) it's based on a faulty premise. I shall elaborate going forward.

Retro Note: Finally caught up with some comments on previous posts. Regarding flame resistant sleepware, it is true that fire retardant chemicals can be hazardous, including, indeed, containing bromine which you definitely want to avoid. However, not to worry: children's sleepwear in general is not treated with flame retardant chemicals. It's flame resistant simply because it is made out of cotton and/or polyester, which do not burn easily. The garments that left kids horribly scarred were made of nylon. Cotton, untreated -- which has swaddled kids for untold centuries -- is safe. (Yes, you can get it to burn if you hold a hot flame to it long enough, but by that time whether the pajamas are burning or not is the least of the kid's worries.)

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