Everyone's buzzing about today's WaPo article regarding drug-resistant killer staph infections. A report issued yesterday by the CDC estimates that as many as 19,000 people die each year from these brutal infections. I personally know a handful of friends who have been unfortunate enough to deal with a case of staph, and even the ones that can be treated are no laughing matter. Some cases are the result of unclean hospital conditions, but many of them are linked to crystal meth use among gay men, and the extremely unclean conditions that result during the orgy portion of the experience. A good friend of mine ended up with a hole the size of a softball in the middle of his stomach once. Absolutely horrifying.
The most interesting thing to me, however, is this little nugget: staph is "killing more people in the United States each year than the AIDS virus". There is most likely a link between HIV infection, staph, and the lifestyle decisions that often lead to one or the other. In other words, there's more than one reason to reign in your wild PNP ways. But isn't it intriguing that the spectre of AIDS still instills more fear in the human mind than something like staph. Getting staph is just bum luck, maybe some dumb decisions, but can usually be dealt with, you know, unless you die. Same with HIV. But staph doesn't have the cultural inertia of fear and hysteria attached to it like AIDS still very much does.
This reminds me of the way that many of my friends are still ridiculously scared of flying on airplanes, but will pile into a small metal deathtrap and cruise down a highway drinking and smoking weed. They are far more likely to end up in a morgue riding in a car, but never give that a second thought. Then in the relative safety of an airplane they hyperventilate and pop enough Xanax to kill a small dog. I find human mind tricks like this fascinating. Here I sit, HIV-positive now for almost a decade, and I still get the dramatic sympathy and look of pity when I confide in people. Well-meaning people, mind you, but people still mired in the earliest conceptions of what having HIV means. Yet if I confided in the same people that I had recently suffered through a staph infection, which is more likely to actually kill me, I would get thoughtful questions and sympathy, but probably not the same look of melodramatic concern.
What does all this mean? Not much, really. Both staph and HIV are still real concerns for those out there living life to the fullest. But it does draw the curtain back a bit on the mythology of fear, and how it affects us in the most absurd ways sometimes.