People Don’t Die of AIDs or Poverty

During a discussion on Quora a comment was made in response to my answer to the question Does feminism exist on the street? Does it exist for women who are homeless or living in poverty? That response was: “Poverty doesn’t kill people.”

The comment has been deleted. At the time it was posted I chose to simply allow it to stand without response.

However, it stuck in my head for several days, rattling around and making connection with another statement I have heard many times over the years: “AIDs doesn’t kill,  complications from contracting the AIDs virus kills.”

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AIDs vs Opportunistic Infections

From a scientific or medical perspective HIV (the AIDs virus), in and of itself, does not kill. AIDs attacks the immune system, which makes the patient vulnerable to other diseases (opportunistic infections) and those diseases are what ultimately kill the patient. For additional scientific data see:

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Poverty vs Social Determinants

It is also true that poverty, in and of itself, does not kill. Humans do not need cash to live, they need the things cash can buy. In that respect, poverty is just like the AIDs virus – potentially lethal problems are introduced as a direct result of being poor (Social Determinants or Social Factors) but the cause of death is never identified as ‘poverty.’ For example:

  • A homeless person without winter shelter dies of exposure or hypothermia.
  • A lifetime of poor nutrition or malnutrition, causes medical problems that can become lethal.
  • A child who does not survive the first two years of life has succumbed to infant mortality.
  • A teenager who is shot on the way to school is a murder victim who dies from a gunshot wound.
  • A poor person ensnared by human trafficking is a victim of criminal activity.
  • Living in close proximity to other people, under highly unsanitary conditions, causes a poor person to contract a lethal respiratory disease – the cause of death is tuberculosis.

For more information on the Social Determinants that contribute to the death of poor people, see the following (sadly incomplete) list of references and links:

Cascading Effect

‘Poverty does not kill’ is a legitimate statement but a failed argument. Neither poverty nor AIDs are directly and immediately lethal, but there is a clearly identified connection:

  • If the AIDs virus could be destroyed or removed, the immune system would return to normal and a reasonably healthy life could be resumed.
  • If poverty were eliminated, the resources necessary to establishing and leading a safe and healthy life could be achieved.

Please Respond

I welcome all comments on this topic. In particular, I would like to invite people to post articles illustrating all of the Social Determinants that result in the deaths of people trying to survive poverty.

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