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Human Immunodeficiency Virus in Cuba: Who Is the Real Danger?

By: Ryan Hildebrand - Aug 5, 2013, 10:18 pm

Since the late Twentieth Century, infection by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and its symptoms (which manifest as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or “AIDS”) have been known. What was not initially known, though, was the way virus transmission occurred. It is via direct contact with certain bodily fluids, where the virus can reach the blood stream.

As is often the case with new pathologies discovered by medical science, quarantines of the infected are typically suggested. These quarantines have varying effects on reduction of disease transmission, but are typically positively correlated with the level of quarantine. With highly contagious diseases, such as Ebola, a quarantine has a strong marginal utility, especially if the infected is unaware, but in the case of HIV infection, infection is relatively easy to avoid, and detection is cheap.

These facts put the onus upon the individual, as they should be. Then, why is there still advocacy of a Cuba-style quarantine in other places for those infected? I present that such advocacy is predicated on fear, ignorance, and the wish to impose control over others.

(Cuban AIDS patient, photo courtesy Jose Goitia)

Often, “success stories,” such as in the fight against this pathology in Cuba, are credited to a “free” health care system. The reality is that such a totalitarian regime can dictate to its citizens nearly every facet of their lives. In fact, it is even easier when multigenerational indoctrination has been allowed to set in a country.

Physicians train a relatively long time to enter their profession, and are compensated for such in a free market system. In controlled economies, these costs are ignored or externalized, and a physician is given what the ruling oligarchy deems necessary. Healthcare in Cuba, in particular, is forced to focus on prevention of disability and disease, rather than treatment, because the country is so impoverished.

Although this is definitely a less expensive route, I see this as a “Trojan horse.” It is circular reasoning used to justify itself.

The government of Cuba has been able to “borrow” innovation from more open economies, such as the United States, be it disease testing or treatment; thus, it externalizes costs. Either way, though, this still doesn’t justify imprisoning individuals infected, particularly with a virus that has such a specific transmission route.

In conclusion, Cuba relies on innovation in the United States for its healthcare success, especially in treatment and prevention of HIV infection, and quarantine is completely unnecessary.

Ryan Hildebrand Ryan Hildebrand

Dr. Ryan Hildebrand is a college instructor in New Orleans, Louisiana, and co-host of The Neo and Wim Show. You can follow his personal blog, NOLA City Blues, and his Twitter @NOLACityBlues. Read more of his featured PanAm Post column, "Self-Ownership."