Friday, November 20, 2009

How To Get From Climate Change to AIDS in Two Easy Steps

Yes, you can go from one potential global disaster to a global epidemic in just two steps, if you are a U.N. Official. Climate change increases HIV/AIDS infection. So says a representative from the U.N..
The effects of climate change have driven women in communities in coastal areas in poor countries like the Philippines into dangerous work, and sometimes even the flesh trade, a United Nations official said.

Suneeta Mukherjee, country representative of the United Nations Food Population Fund (UNFPA), said women in the Philippines are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in the country.

“Climate change could reduce income from farming and fishing, possibly driving some women into sex work and thereby increase HIV infection," Mukherjee said during the Wednesday launch of the UNFPA annual State of World Population Report in Pasay City.

In the Philippines, small brothels usually pop up near the coastal areas where many women perform sexual services for transient seafarers. Often, these prostitutes are ferried to bigger ships by their pimps.
Let's follow the logic here, if you can:

1. "Climate change can reduce income from farming and fishing": This is an assertion without a great deal of proof, but notice the equivocation "can." The statement isn't the unsupported "Climate change reduces income" which is a declarative, but you have simply the possibility that climate change might reduce income. Ironically, lets assume that climate change does alter farming and fishing income--the assertion doesn't say, but does imply, that income would go down. That may not be true--if for example the crop or fish supply becomes less scarce, the price would go up--not down. So in order for climate change to reduce income from fishing and farming--then we would have to have more food--not less. So the state is filled will all kinds of potential and no assertions of fact.

2. "...possibly driving some women into sex work"--again note the equivocation. Certainly if poor women lose their agricultural jobs, then sex work might be one alternative, but so too would manufacturing jobs, not working at all, tourist work or just about any type of work. Also note the fuzzy number "some." Some could mean half a dozen out of 10,000 or some other small percentage. Hardly a crisis of any scale.

3. "...and thereby increase HIV infection." I will admit that an increase in the sex trade produces a related increase in the HIV infection rate, I believe that matter has been well-studied and well-documented. However, increases in HIV infection rates in a given area may not be solely the result of an increase in the sex trade. So just because the sex trade increases in a given local does not fully explain any increase in the HIV infection rate.

Oh, and here is another shocking news bit: "In the Philippines, small brothels usually pop up near the coastal areas where many women perform sexual services for transient seafarers." First, remember that the Philippines are a nation comprised of a lot of islands. Seafarers, being seafarers, have to spend their time on ships, which have to make port in order to make any money. As sure and as certain as the tides and the sun rising in the East, where there are sailors and ports, you will find brothels and prostitutes. In fact, I would bet that if you look at the history of seafaring trade going back to Mesopotamian times, prostitutes were part of the economic activity of any port. The fact that some women engage in the sex trade in coastal areas is not something new.

That doesn't it make it right or wrong, but the problem with such statements by the U.N. is that they attempt to create a crisis where none exists. To say that climate change causes an increase in sex trade and thereby an increase in HIV infection is a statement made without a shred of proof or causation. It is irresponsible in the extreme--but that is nothing new.

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