Science reporter Michael Fumento is a paragon of political incorrectness. This year he blew the whistle on the absolution of Koua Fong Lee by the Minnesota legal system. The Minnesota media usually perk up at the slightest national attention to any local story. The Lee case is a huge local story. For some reason, however, Fumento’s critique of the Minnesota authorities in the Lee case has yet to penetrate the local media.
Fumento more notably provided a sane counterpoint to the AIDS hysteria of the 1980’s. Starting in 1987 Fumento deconstructed The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS peddled with great effectiveness by Dr. Everett Koop from his lofty perch as the Surgeon General of the United States. I think it was Fumento who pointed out at the time that heterosexual men were more likely to contract breast cancer than AIDS.
This week Fumento returns on the occasion of World AIDS day to point out the gross disparity in research funding between AIDS and other leading causes of death in the United States. In his awkwardly titled Forbes column Fumento asks “On World AIDS day, let’s remember the true forgotten victims.”
Fumento points out that HIV/AIDS accounts for just 1 out of 146 U.S. deaths, yet will receive over $3 billion in federal research funding in 2011:
* HIV/AIDS gets about $200,000 per patient death in the NIH research budget, according to calculations from the FAIR Foundation (Fair Allocations in Research). We spend 21 times more per AIDS death than cancer death. Pancreatic cancer will strike about 43,000 Americans this year and is essentially a quick death sentence. It gets 1% of the funding per death as AIDS.
* Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are the nation’s sixth and 14th-leading causes of death of death respectively, yet HIV/AIDS gets 34 times and 25 times more per fatality respectively.
* The disparity is all the worse when trends are considered. While AIDS cases and deaths remain level, those of Parkinson’s inexorably climb while Alzheimer’s fly off the chart.
Several lessons can be drawn here. One that Fumento draws is this: “[D]isinformation can cause indefinite devastation. Nobody knows how many people have already died because disproportionate AIDS spending has robbed other diseases of badly-needed funds, much less those who will in decades to come.”