Global Warning

I would like to congratulate Mark Schoofs and The Village Voice for a remarkable series of articles on AIDS. Schoofs brilliantly covers the impact of HIV/AIDS on individuals, but he does less well in analyzing the overall impact of the epidemic. In part, I feel, this is because the HIV prevalence figures quoted are too low to give a true sense of the extent of the epidemic. UNAIDS is the official source of the statistics. Where do they get their figures (and how much do they spend on the exercise)? The figures are patently wrong.

UNAIDS currently estimates the number of people infected globally at about 33 million. The combined population of Nigeria, Congo, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, and South Africa is about 270 million. If only 10 percent of their populace is HIV-positive (and it is probably more like 15 percent), then they account for most of the UNAIDS estimate. But these are just a few of the countries in Africa. What about the rest of the world? Has the infection rate in India hit 3.3 percent yet? That would be another 33 million positives. In short, the simplest arithmetic shows that the current "official" estimates are so wrong as to be useless.

Dr. Michael L.B. Becker
Hamilton, New Zealand

Mark Schoofs replies: There has long been a debate over estimates for diseases—not just AIDS—in developing countries. While hardly perfect, the UNAIDS data is the best available. But at some point, statistics cease to matter. An adult infection rate of just 5 percent—which is approximately what Nigeria estimates it is suffering—is a catastrophe. Twenty percent, which is what at least four countries in southern Africa appear to have, is almost beyond comprehension. Numbers alone cannot convey the toll, which is why the series discussed the trauma of millions of orphans, the damage to the economy, and the overflow in hospitals and morgues.

Fre(E-) Press

Thank you for publishing "Washington 451" [February 1] by Russ Kick. Americans need to know about S.R. 486 and to understand that its language and legal ramifications are not limited, as its title, "The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act," suggests.

As cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug/substance in the U.S., the intent of the bill is clearly to quell the rising tide of dissent against marijuana prohibition made possible by the first truly democratic mass medium: the Internet. The ruling elite controls almost all the newspapers, radio, and TV stations and thereby manipulates the national consciousness. Thus, almost all dissent against the "War on Drugs" is effectively squelched.

Now, however, all an ordinary citizen needs is access to a computer. Finally, there is hope for true freedom of speech.

John Colman-Pinning
Waldport, Oregon

Laurel Not Hardy?

Re Toni Schlesinger's February 1 Money column: As a working filmmaker and adjunct professor at two New York City film schools, I find it difficult to sympathize with Laurel Jay Carpenter, the artist who complains that living in New York City is too expensive.

Ms. Carpenter, who pays $475 a month rent, has the nerve to complain—and then brag about buying $60 eye shadow? She is lucky enough to go to MacDowell art colony, but then gripes about the job that is still waiting for her when she returns? Please get a grip! Nobody likes to return from vacation, dear.

The fact that she is an installation artist (combined with her desire to get into an A-list M.F.A. program) is also illuminating. Perhaps Ms. Carpenter is now realizing that by buying into the academic establishment's late-'80s art-school doctrine of "installation first," she deprived herself of the opportunity of learning a more marketable craft. I have nothing against installation art, and I'm sure Ms. Carpenter is a fine human being, artist, and teacher. Her sense of entitlement, however, is nauseating.

Matt Sheridan

Basta, Bohemia

Anyone seeking to eke out a life in New York City on a sub-six-figure salary must feel the pain of Laurel Jay Carpenter. There seems to be little recourse for those of us who just get by, and no sympathy from the credit-card-crunching, chain-store-loving clones who've overtaken the city. It's simply not worth the price, financially and morally, to stay. New York has become overrated as a bastion of bohemianism. I've found more freedom and inspiration in the small town my family has relocated to—and that's where I'm headed. I'll miss New York City. Sure I will.

John C. Tripp

Two-Way Street

In response to the column about Laurel Jay Carpenter: As an art administrator, proper compensation for artists is one of the biggest challenges I face. The culture of the starving artist makes it easy to overlook them when allocating budgets, and we have to break that cycle. With the professionalization of nonprofits, managers and funders must put artists in the forefront of their thoughts; otherwise we will become market-driven and the culture will suffer. But artists also have to make an effort to understand the challenges of management and funding. The road that leads to an important place for the arts and culture in contemporary society is a two-way street.

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