AIDS and Sanitation: Accomplices in Crime

First off, thanks so much for all the recent attention we've been generating online.  If you're curious to know more about how we've been caught in the world wide web, take a look at our press page! That said, we wanted to talk about World AIDS Day, yet still things got kinda crappy...

Here at The POOP Project, we spend a lot of time talking about something that's normally left unsaid.  We think it's a pretty important job, and not one many others are willing to tackle.  Even though poop-related illnesses kill thousands of people every day, we mostly hear about these diseases euphemistically as "water-borne," or are led to think the crisis is "access to water."  In reality, the issue is sometimes not the water itself, but the presence of bacteria that come from the bowels. Everything is connected.

We already know that our reluctance to talk about the toilet impedes progress towards solving a sanitation crisis affecting 40% of our world population.  But have you ever thought about how sanitation issues might affect other, better-publicized crises?

Take malnutrition, for example. We've all seen pictures of suffering children who are barely more than skeletons, but may not have realized that contamination from poop causes the very diarrhea that makes them malnourished.  Similarly, the bloated bellies we're familiar with in the media comes from parasitic worms found in feces.

Poor sanitation also serves as a catalyst for malaria, as mosquitoes use public toilets, ditches, and other stagnant water as breeding grounds.  Malaria will only be defeated using a combination of methods, but maybe the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation--which has made great progress by distributing nets, producing insecticides and researching a vaccine--could take a tip from Ghana, where they fought malaria by addressing sanitation.

As we take this day to honor those living with HIV/AIDS, it's important to remember that everything is connected.  To use some simple examples, if the water you're using to take your pills also gives you a good dose of hepatitis B, typhoid or giardia, is it still going to prolong your life?  There are many more long-lasting connections, and I encourage you to take a look at the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre for a number of informative articles on the topic.  The video below, by South Africa's Water Research Commission and Mvula Trust, follows a home healthcare worker in South Africa explaining why water/sanitation are crucial to addressing HIV/AIDS there. (Note that, although they address the notion that water, sanitation and hygiene all play a key role, water is the main feature.)

Wishing you health this World AIDS Day, and as always, peaceful pooping.

The Puru