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HIV/AIDS and its implications - a global long-wave threat that medicine alone cannot cure

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During the last twenty-five years we have learned how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes AIDS, how it spreads and how it does not. We have also watched as AIDS has destroyed whole populations, and observed which responses appear most efficacious. One of the most alarming characteristics of HIV is that it typically strikes healthy young people. Yet most of the people who have HIV still do not know it. Efforts to confront the epidemic are further stymied by contentious differences about how best do so, compounded by a persistent stigmatisation of and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. There are some 4.1 million new cases every year, and though the recent rapid expansion of antiretroviral treatment will prolong the lives of millions, there is no immediate prospect of a vaccine or cure. Thus, though still at an early stage, the pandemic is often described as 'a long-wave event', with ramifications that will persist for decades. In this article, we review the relationship between HIV/AIDS and development, social stability and security. After considering the societal implications of HIV/AIDS control - with special attention to gender issues, human rights and the involvement of civil society - we conclude by discussing both Europe's responsibility and role as well as HIV/AIDS as a long-wave event, drawing some parallels with global climate change. It is of the greatest importance that we do not fall into the trap of ascribing to such long-wave events short-term significance - such as in the case of HIV/AIDS and security. This would be inappropriate because it links to contemporary moral and political panics when the real concerns have to do with much longer-term problems of common human well-being and security.

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