Cancer and our Governments Failure.

Should have been posted Saturday 7/12/08

I write this on the news that most of you most likely know a portion of. Today our world lost two men who personified class, former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and Yankee Legend Bobby Murcer. From what I’ve seen Tony was a true class act, never one to talk down to a reporter or to make himself the center of the story, he came out day after day with a smile on his face, despite having to deal with his cross. Much like Tony, Bobby Murcer was truly one of the nice guys our world lacks today, never one to turn down a fan, Bobby would spend his time talking to anyone who approached him, whether it be at a mall or a restaurant, Bobby knew what many of today’s athletes didn’t, the fans make you who you are and you should repay them if you can.

In the late 1990s, after having a relative die of cancer, Bobby became an anti-tobacco advocate, he had been a user almost his whole life and now was going to try to protect those who were still young enough to save themselves. Since his diagnosis he has done all he could to help promote the need for everyone to not sit back when they feel something is wrong, if you think your sick he said to go get yourself checked.

For many of us cancer is a problem that has affected us in someway. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or even a beloved pet, cancer takes away what we hold dear. Yet despite the odds of getting cancer, 1 in every 3 Americans will be diagnosed, our government looks the other way. Is it because it’s not sexy enough? Our government has no problem throwing billions upon billions of dollars at AIDS. Or is it because due to the large scale in which it hits we’ve become too complacent with it.

While I believe we should do what we can to eradicate HIV from this world, the fact still remains that over 95% of the disease is caused by a person’s own habits, while the percentage of American’s who die due to smoking or drinking is even in dispute by the W.H.O., who believe the number is much lower then what the Anti-Tobacco lobby would like us to believe. Despite the disparity between causes the US spends significantly more per person on those with AIDS.

From 1981 to 2004 the US has spent over $150 Billion in AIDS funding, from 2005 on the government has spent over $18.5 billion per year. Now with our cost of war and other problems many people would say that this is not a lot, that we should be spending more, but if you look at the amount we spend per person you may think otherwise. The amount spent within the US for AIDS is roughly 95% of the overall spending, so for 2006 we spent around $17 billion for domestic AIDS, yet it’s estimated at the end of 2006 we had 448,871 people living with AIDS in the US, with around 38,000 people being infected every year. Since its discovery an estimated 566,000 people have died from AIDS, around half of those diagnosed, and since our fight against AIDS the US averages around 14,700 deaths a year.

Now spending wise that means for each person living currently with AIDS we spend around $38,000, which by any means isn’t a large amount of money, but this is spent on a disease that is mostly lifestyle driven. Per death, which shouldn’t be a huge factor since we should be preventing these deaths, we spend over $1.1 million.

Now on the other hand the cancer rate in America is a much bigger problem. In 2007 the number of people diagnosed with cancer was over 1.4 Million while the death toll was around 560,000. That means that in 2007 alone more people were diagnosed with cancer then were diagnosed with AIDS from 1981, the same holds true with deaths, with more people dying from cancer in 2007 then have ever died from AIDS. Despite the huge difference in numbers the US spends $5.6 billion on cancer research. Yes, $5.6 billion on a disease that is deadlier then everything except heart disease, which will be a topic for another day. Why do we limit funding to around $1,000 per death while AIDS gets over $1 Million? As a country we should do our best to protect our people, but why is it we protect those who bring something upon themselves more then we protect people who can’t help what they get?

Granted I have a bias towards the topic, currently having a grandmother who battled colon cancer for over 5 years, a grandfather who died of lung cancer, and many other family members who have battled the illness, but still who hasn’t? We’re the richest country in the world, yet we seem to want to only follow the cool trends. The celebrities wear their little red ribbons, they fight for AIDS help, and like a kid trying to fit in the US government bows down the their wishes, while many people sit at home, dying from cancer, or sometimes worse dying from the only treatment.

I have no problem stating that today, as a young man of 23, I cried multiple times. Once upon waking at 7AM to find out a great man had died. Then again at around 5PM when I heard of another. These two men fought so hard in the eyes of the public, they made me hope that they can overcome this battle and be role models and fighters for those with cancer, but alas they didn’t make it. I feel like many must have when MLK was killed, he had a great shot at being the shinning star for civil rights, and I hope today goes down as a day when two men have a shot at being just like Mr. King, shinning stars for those who battle cancer.

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