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Trends in global concerns September 27, 2007

Posted by dorigo in internet, news, politics, science.

Google trends is a wonderful toy. When I use it I am both happy and angry: happy for the information I receive, angry because it was not created earlier – it only accesses data from 2004 onwards.

I used it today to verify whether my own perception of the concerns about AIDS in our society is correct or biased. I feel the problem of AIDS, the concerns about its diffusion, the prevention campaigns, have all been fading in the background of other “global concerns”: among them the war on terror and global warming, most notably.

In Italy, a recent poll found that 52% of young women use no protection during occasional sexual intercourse. And there in fact seems to be a trend toward avoiding the use of condoms, or using them only towards the end of intercourse, especially among youngsters. What is worse, there seems to be an increase in demand of oral sex by young men, which is mostly performed with no protection.

To me this decline of attention to the prevention of HIV is strikingly at odds with the diffusion of the virus, which to my knowledge is continuing to increase and is literally a pandemic. I was unable to find a more up-to-date graph of global AIDS diffusion (if you know a better source, let me know), but the plot on the left shows a continuing increase, mostly driven by Africa but not confined there.

So let us see what google trends tells us as far as HIV is concerned. A comparison can be made with two other important “global concerns”: global warming, and terrorism. The results are shown below.

The trend of HIV is in blue, that of global warming is in red, and that of terrorism is in yellow. They are plotted from 2004 to end 2007. One can clearly see that the interest in HIV has declined by about 20% in the last three years. Interesting to know that terrorism has also been strongly declining, while in the same period global warming has more than doubled. 

I think global warming is indeed a concern, but despite its importance for the future generations, I believe a prevention of AIDS and more attention toward avoiding the spread of that plague is a more pressing issue, and a more direct challenge to humanity in the XXIst century. Italian girls and boys should be taught at school of the danger they face, but unfortunately that is hard to achieve in Italy, where the catholic church still pretends to dictate how to live our life, what to teach our kids, whether women aiming for an assisted fecundation should have the right to check the embryos for genetic malformations, and similar issues. 

The catholic church is incapable of understanding the changes in our society and the challenges we face, and instead of claiming a seat at the table where these challenges will be addressed, is manouvering into a fundamentalist position which, eventually, will be the cause of its decline. 



1. Andrea Giammanco - September 27, 2007

The fact that only data after 2004 are available is really disappointing.
I wanted to test the popular belief that “the ass is the cunt of the years 2k”, but I have no pre-2k data to compare with!
By the way, it seems that the ass is way more popular that the cunt, indeed:


Maybe before 2000 it was the opposite.

(I wonder if this comment will pass the spam filter.)

2. dorigo - September 27, 2007

Hi Andrea,

spam filters are really hard to decypher… Your message made it through, while a couple of innocent comments I wrote myself yesterday – from the owner’s account – failed!

About your scientific interest in the trendiness of human orifices, I can only comment that somebody last year had mentioned somewhere the same increase in popularity in italy of “c***” over “f***” . I checked, it’s true. As females become less discriminated in our society, men feel their superiority complex squeezed, and look for ways to maintain a domination where they can – i.e., in the bedroom.


3. Torbjörn Larsson, OM - September 27, 2007

Well, HIV is a pandemic in Africa, Russia and other places, but as long as the frequency in industrialized nations are low and medication makes the disease slow in fatality you will see a disinterest there. (The later can change as HIV evolves.)

Global warming is a concern for us now btw, IIRC for example Italy has now tropical diseases which formerly wouldn’t spread, and AFAIK the polar bears may lose their habitat within our current generation (ie within 20 years).

4. Qubit - September 27, 2007

IMO, Viruses will probably be the biggest problem for Mankind than ether of the other two. If a global epidemic of bird flu was to kill millions, it would be highly likely that people with HIV and AIDS would survive; due to the fact that bird flu causes cytokine storms ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytokine_storm ) in humans. During the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 people with AIDS were reported to be unaffected by SARS, this was due to the virus causing cytokine storms in people!

Any Global epidemic of a virus that causes a cytokine storm that can kill millions, will increase the ratio of people with HIV/AIDS to people without. An outbreak of more than one global virus that causes cytokine storms, could be bordering on Armageddon. The thing about this is that it could happen in months, rather than years. If the survival rate of infected is the same as the number of HIV/AIDS victims then the survivors will have to find a cure for AIDS or face extinction. But then at least global warming and terrorism will no longer be a problem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGN1412 what happened to the people in this trial is probably what will happen to every person who does not have an immune deficiency, if a cytokine storm virus was to go global.

Prolonging the life span of people rather than curing people with HIV/AIDS will increase the numbers of people with the virus. HIV/AIDS is a singularity; mankinds!

5. Matteo Martini - September 28, 2007

about your comment about the Catholic Church, here we have an interesting article ( sorry, only in Italian ):

Le cifre (e si tratta di quelle ufficiali, diffuse dalla Santa Sede) parlano chiaro, fa notare Peloso: guardando all’ultimo quarto di secolo i sacerdoti in Europa sono diminuiti di oltre il 20%, ma è tutto l’Occidente a segnare un inarrestabile declino: a partire dal continente americano, dal Canada agli Stati Uniti, dove una chiesa bastonata dallo scandalo pedofilia vivacchia da qualche anno nel silenzio e nel torpore della stagnazione, dopo la pubblica gogna. Fino all’Australia, altro paese di cultura occidentale, dove pure si assiste a un forte calo delle vocazioni e quindi a una costante diminuzione del clero. Un fenomeno a cui va ad aggiungersi l’invecchiamento dei preti (di par passo con l’andamento demografico), fra i quali gli ultrasessantenni la fanno ormai da padrone. Stesso trend tocca i “consacrati”, cioè suore e frati appartenenti alle congregazioni religiose: nell’arco di tempo che va dal 1978 al 2004 gli uomini sono diminuiti del 27%, le donne del 22%.


This is another interesting passage in Elgnish ( about Catholicism in America only ):


Still, I do not know if the site is worth of faith..

6. Matteo Martini - September 28, 2007
7. Torbjörn Larsson, OM - September 28, 2007

It is clear that worldwide pandemics is one of the major threats to mankind. But “cytokine storms” is a new phenomena that remains to be assessed.

Furthermore, no pandemic has obviously ever killed 100 % globally, and it is unclear if survivors were deficient or proficient in any traits that made them survive. (Though most often it seems to be exclusively the healthy individuals.)

Viruses in general is a threat that is hard to prevent but the science progresses. HIV and AGW is in many ways easier to deal with but the problems progresses.

8. dorigo - September 28, 2007

Andrea, you will be amused to know that my answer to your spam-like comment (#2 above) was caught by my idiotic filter 😦

I had to fish it out of the spam box this morning… I wonder how many more have been lost forever.


9. dorigo - September 28, 2007

Hi Torbjorn,

of course you are right – even “global” concerns have specific regions of interest. Global warming, in this respect, is more “global” than AIDS. But I find the latter more pressing, really. Neither AIDS nor climate change have the potential of destroying our civilization, but a lack of fight of the former is more at odds with my idea of “civilized” behavior.


10. dorigo - September 28, 2007

Hi Qbit,

interesting articles. I wish I could understand more of what is going on with the recent research on viruses. For sure, some of them are a global threat. But I try to keep a slightly more optimistic view than yours… IMO, finding a cure to AIDS is a good idea because people are dying of it now, more than it is because of the fact that HIV infected individuals might one day be the sole survivors on Earth.
That is, when we are down to damage control, we have better act against present dangers than against future threats.


11. dorigo - September 28, 2007

Hi Matteo,

thank you for pointing me to that article, and for finding a translation for readers here. I think the decline of catholicism is a good sign for western countries, but on the other hand on the face of it we have an even faster increase in islamism. We are likely going to find out how good a deal that is 🙂


12. Matteo Martini - September 29, 2007

Hi Tommaso,
I am ( idioticly? naively? ) optimistic that Islam, too, is going on the path of becoming ” softer “, at least, outside Iran..
Just read an interesting article, today, on one of the worst things linked to Islam religion, in the New York Times:

Circumcision, as supporters call it, or female genital mutilation, as opponents refer to it, was suddenly a ferocious focus of debate in Egypt this summer. A nationwide campaign to stop the practice has become one of the most powerful social movements in Egypt in decades, uniting an unlikely alliance of government forces, official religious leaders and street-level activists.

Though Egypt’s Health Ministry ordered an end to the practice in 1996, it allowed exceptions in cases of emergency, a loophole critics describe as so wide that it effectively rendered the ban meaningless. But now the government is trying to force a comprehensive ban.

Not only was it unusual for the government to shut down the clinic, but the health minister has also issued a decree banning health care workers— or anyone — from conducting the procedure for any reason. Beyond that, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also issued a booklet explaining why the practice was not called for in Islam; Egypt’s grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, declared it haram, or prohibited by Islam; Egypt’s highest religious official, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, called it harmful; television advertisements have been shown on state channels to discourage it; and a national hot line was set up to answer the public’s questions about genital cutting.


As I fear, the only way to make some ideas/traditions go away, is to fight and wait that the bearers of the idea/tradition die.
Of natural death, of course.

13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM - September 29, 2007


Agreed. HIV and other disease are large human concerns, and other geophysical factors than AGW are more immediate concerns. (Drought, hurricanes, earth quakes, tsunamis, …) I would prioritize those fatal or painful/disfiguring diseases and parasites that we can eradicate (which is a mere handful) as “future gain” is “infinite” on that, but other than that HIV is high on my list too.

14. Matteo Martini - September 29, 2007

By the way, about HIV, there is a discussion going around, if HIV may not be regarded as the main health problem in the third world.

Symptom to system: How aid skews health services
By Andrew Jack

Published: September 27 2007 19:35 | Last updated: September 27 2007 19:35

Ask Brian Chituwo, Zambia’s minister of health, about Aids and he rolls his eyes skyward. “Aids, Aids, Aids,” he says. “It takes so much money. We would like more for prevention. There’s no point giving a child drugs to treat HIV if they then drink infected water and die of cholera.”


Tommaso, stop me if you think I am flooding your blog.

15. dorigo - September 29, 2007

Matteo, this is a public site -I was taught so despite the subtitle “private thoughts etc.” in the discussion following my post on Lisa Randall- so please feel free to use it to point to anything relevant to what the posts discuss.

16. Qubit - October 1, 2007

Dorigo, I agree AIDS should be cured, but now rather than later.

If an outbreak of bird flu similar to the Spanish flu of 1918 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu ) was to hit the world, it will hit young healthy adults 20 – 40 year old, rather than any other age group. This age group it also the most likely age group to contract HIV and develop AIDS, so if bird flu hits that age group and kills mainly those who have the healthiest immune systems, that will leave more people with HIV/AIDS at that age group. This would be the biggest disaster to hit mankind since the ice age.

50-100 million healthy young people could die within one year. Take a look at the TGN1412 web site again it says on there that, ” paradoxically, the men’s white blood cells had vanished almost completely several hours after administration of TGN1412″. If anything like that happens with a new strain of bird flu, then all those people with HIV may become carriers of bird flu, extending the time of the epidemic. Once the epidemic is over, there would be a new epidemic, as many of the survivors would have low white blood cells and HIV; AIDS would take hold quickly and would kill millions more within months.

With more young people with AIDS and less of them without it; it would mean HIV would be out of control.

Bird flu is not years in the future; it stood on our doorsteps with a brush and a tin of red paint!

17. Qubit - October 2, 2007

sorry, it kept saying try again, i only meant for one to be posted. No idea why that happened?

18. dorigo - October 2, 2007

Hi Qubit,

I do not have the knowledge to agree to or dismiss the scenario you picture, but it certainly looks terrifying. On the other hand, I think it is a proven fact that millions are dying NOW of AIDS. That, to me, is sufficient motivation for keeping it a priority to fight the virus. We should all be concerned with finding a vaccine and trying to improve the life expectancy of people in Africa, and I feel too little is being done. What’s worse, the topic is slowly but steadily disappearing from newspapers and other media.


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