As a writer who regularly publishes stories about the improving conditions of human life, I receive many letters from readers — some inspiring, some obviously written in anger. The negative reactions usually include smart “yes, but” arguments. “You may have a point there”, is the reaction of others when they are confronted with statistics about, say, falling poverty or declining violence in the world, “but what you are ignoring, though, is that ...” — and what comes then is usually some kind of insolvable problem or disastrous consequence, in other words, the fly in the ointment. There is some truth about many of these comments. However, focusing on spotting the fly in the ointment may distract many from the ointment’s benefits — which are real. The reason why certain reactions are so harsh is that people are under the impression that stories about good news intend to talk serious problems down or away. But none of these statistics say, “everything’s fine”. What they say instead is, “almost everything is getting better”.
And, of course, 1.1 million AIDS deaths in 2015 is not good news. In fact, it is a terrifying figure. But it is shrinking, and has been for ten years already. With 2 million dead, the number of people falling victim to HIV peaked in 2005. New infections are also dropping, from 3.1 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2015. In addition, more and more infected people (17 million) have access to antiretroviral drugs, which enable them to live with the disease — something that could be regarded as an achievement of the widely unloved pharmaceutical industry. The UN intends to win the war on AIDS by 2030, as it declared in New York in mid-2015. Not everything is good. But many things are getting better indeed. Guido Mingels
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