Thanksgiving for AIDS and child overdose progress

AIDS and baby visits to emergency rooms are both declining thanks to coordinated action.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it's 100% American.

Yes, we have the 4th of July and Memorial Day. But every country has independence days and days to remember the horrors of war.

Thanksgiving is America's festival of peace, first proclaimed (on its current date) in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln (right) to pray for an end to the Civil War and a just peace.

The language of the proclamation is religious but its implementation is both secular and humanist. It is a day set aside to consider our blessings.

So here are two blessings for you to take to your Thanksgiving table.


AIDS is finally on the decline, according to an independent evaluation by the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS.

Infections are down nearly 20% from their peak, deaths are down similarly.

This is not the end of it. There is always the chance of a false dawn. Credit goes to leaders in sub-Saharan Africa, especially South Africa, where AIDS skeptic Thabo Mbeki was succeeded as President by Jacob Zuma, who launched a testing program against the disease.

The decision by Pope Benedict XVI to allow condoms against the disease is another positive sign, and in the U.S. the two major organizations created to fight the disease have merged to form AIDS United.

There is also hope from Truvada, a combination pill to prevent AIDS which, when taken daily as directed, cut infection rates 90% in high-risk individuals according to a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The attention of activists is now on eastern Europe and central Asia, where infection rates are rising. With the disease now retreating into places where medicine does not reach, it's clear that science now has the advantage.

Child Overdose

If you think you're seeing fewer kids in your local hospital Emergency Room (ER), it's because you are.

Credit goes to a 2007 decision by the Food and Drug Administration to pull over-the-counter cold medicines for small children from the shelves.

A study on this by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published in Pediatrics, shows the total number of visits for adverse events related to cold medications among children age two and younger fell from 2,790 before the withdrawal to 1,248.

Two thirds of these visits were caused by kids who were unsupervised at the time. By way of full disclosure I was a visitor to an ER at age two when my sister reportedly invited me to a "baby aspirin party," washed down by Ex-Lax. It happens in the best households. (My sister later became an ER scrub nurse.)

The CDC now offers a special page for parents on its Web site suggesting that any cold medicines recommended for children under 4 be thrown away and that they not be given cold medicines that are recommended for older children.

More disclosure. My wife's late family doctor had a saying she still repeats. "You can either fight this cold aggressively and recover in 14 days, or do nothing and get better in two weeks."

We give thanks this week to his memory as well.

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