Looks like everyone is fair game on the Comedy Central show South Park–even Big Pharma. In one of the show’s funniest and most irreverent episodes to date, Eric Cartman (the potty-mouthed chubby kid with the poof-ball hat) becomes infected with HIV during a routine tonsillectomy. And it turns out nobody cares.
Eric goes on an adventure with his friend Kyle (who Eric injects with his infected blood after he laughs at him) to find Magic Johnson, who they believe has the cure for AIDS.
Johnson, however, doesn’t have an answer for them and allows the boys to search his home in search of what is causing him to live so long with AIDS. The kids discover stacks of money in the basketball star’s bedroom and assume that the abundance of cash has to be the cure. So they run to an unnamed pharma company to share their info.
The researchers at the lab buy into their theory and take $150,000, blend it, purify it, liquefy it, and place it into a syringe. Two shots later and both kids are cured (or at least the disease is placed in a neutralized state, according to the show).
A running joke through the episode is that no one is interested in the cure for AIDS. “HIV is so retro,” says one flight attendant who refuses them a discount unless they have cancerâ€”a more serious disease.
The episode was hilarious, but the writers might have a point.
Has America forgotten about AIDS?
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, seems to think so. In a press conference this morning, Weinstein accused the Center of Disease Control (CDC) of not being proactive in its reporting of the number of people in the US infected with AIDS.
He referred to the recently released “HIV AIDS Surveillance Report,” which lists cases of HIV and AIDS infections in the United States.
According to the report, the number of new HIV infections in the United States has increased 48 percent from an estimated 35,000 in 2005 to 52,000 new cases reported in 2006.
“By any reasonable estimation, HIV prevention in America has failed. Mixed messages…people are becoming complacent because they are not seeing people dying of AIDS all around them,” Weinstein told the press. “In November, CDC hid the numbers. CDC should be shouting this from the rooftops.”
However, the CDC argues that the numbers jumped because of new and better reporting methods and data from states that previously hadn’t given numbers. From 2003 to 2005, only 33 states and five territories reported data on HIV and AIDS. The 2006 data is gathered from 45 states and five territories.
Weinstein claims that either way, the original total estimates for AID/HIV infections in the US were about 40,000 and the estimate is now nearly 60,000, which will cost about $36 billion to treat.
“Whether infections were from a previous year is immaterial. The bottom line is that the overall aggregate number is much higher,” Weinstein said. “Part of the reason we are groping here for a better understanding is because CDC is not taking the lead here. Even in cases where you had reporting, they [the numbers] are increasing.”
Neither the CDC nor “South Park” has issued Pharm Exec a comment yet.