Thirty years of AIDS: Smithsonian remembers the start of a pandemic

AIDSThirty years ago this summer, the first official reports were released about a new virus that destroyed the human immune system. The virus was the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which causes AIDS.

Since that time HIV/AIDS has become a global pandemic, claiming millions of lives and seriously damaging several developing economies.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is marking this grim anniversary with a special two-part exhibition at the Washington, DC, museum. HIV and AIDS Thirty Years Ago looks at the initial public and government response to HIV/AIDS from 1981-1987, and how the virus was first isolated. Archiving the History of an Epidemic: HIV and AIDS, 1985-2009 takes the story forward to look at society’s growing awareness of the problem and oral histories of those affected. There’s also an online exhibition.

For more information on how HIV/AIDS and how to protect yourself, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HIV/AIDS information page or the government’s AIDS page for basic information about HIV/AIDS.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Controversy over Condé Nast Traveler’s World Savers Awards

The popular magazine Condé Nast Traveler hosts the annual World Savers Awards to recognize the efforts of hotels, airlines, tour and cruise companies that give something back through their environmental or social programs. But one recipient of the 2010 award is attracting controversy over its actions.

Wilderness Safaris won this year’s award in the Health Initiatives category for its HIV/AIDS program, which includes the construction of clinics in South Africa, Zambia, and Malawi. Now Survival International, which supports the rights of indigenous peoples, says Wilderness Safaris falls short of its image as positive force in the community.

It points to its new luxury lodge, the Kalahari Plains Camp, set on the traditional lands of the Bushmen in Botswana. The lodge boasts a bar and swimming pool while the Bushmen have to walk for miles to get water. The local people used to have a well, but the government capped it when it kicked the Bushmen off the land in 2002. Survival International and the Bushmen went to court and won the right for the Bushmen to return to their lands, but the government still won’t allow them to reopen the well.

Wilderness Safaris says providing water isn’t their responsibility, but Survival International points out that they constructed a well near one of their resorts in Zimbabwe in order to attract more wildlife.

How much responsibility does a resort have to the local community? Tell us what you think in the comments section.

[Photo courtesy Ian Beatty]

U.S. lifts ban on travelers with HIV or AIDS

For the past 22 years, if you had HIV or AIDS and weren’t American, you couldn’t enter the U.S.

That changed today as President Obama lifted the ban. Since the Obama administration is planning to host the 2012 World Aids Conference, the change in policy was necessary.

The biannual conference naturally includes many people living with HIV and AIDS, and barring their entry would have been bad PR for an administration that wants to be seen as a global leader in the fight against the disease

There are only ten countries that now ban people with HIV/AIDS from entering. They are: Brunei, China. Equatorial Guinea, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

According to the website hivtravel.org, some of these countries allow people to enter under “special circumstances”. Some other countries not on the list put restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS but not full bans.%Gallery-13474%

Gadlinks for Wednesday 11.11.09

Did you know that former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died five years ago today? I think it’s fair to say that the situation is getting rather dire for the people in Palestine, as their current leader is threatening to quit his post. My girlfriend will be volunteering in a Palestinian refugee camp come February. I hope things will clear up by then.

I didn’t mean for this pre-script to be such a downer! Maybe these articles will help to lift our travel spirits?

‘Til tomorrow, have a great evening!

More Gadlinks HERE.

Norway world’s best place to live

I’m not sure if everybody wants to live in Norway, but it’s certainly at the top of the global list. The United Nations Development Program determined this based on data GDP, education and life expectancy – among other metrics – to find the best of the best, as well as the other end of the spectrum. The data’s from 2007, though, so it doesn’t reflect a post-financial crisis world.

Joining Norway are Australia and Iceland, the latter of which was a hot location until a year ago, when the entire country got an International Monetary Fund package normally reserved for the third-est of third-world countries. Yet, even with the recession in mind, Iceland (a favorite destination of mine) is still far better than Niger, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, which sit at the bottom of the list. Several other sub-Saharan African states also ranked toward the bottom because of ongoing war and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS.

The spread is most evident in life expectancy, where a mailing address in Norway would add 30 years relative to Niger. In Niger, the current average life expectancy is 50. And, for every dollar that someone earns in Niger, the same person would pick up $85 in Norway. In Afghanistan, one can expect to live only 43.6 years.

Money matters, still. Lichtenstein continues to boast the world’s highest GDP per capital at $85,383. The 35,000 people who live there share the small principality with 15 banks and more than 100 wealth management companies. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the lowest income in the world: $298 per person per year.

The top climbers on the list for 2007 were China, Iran and Nepal.