A World Crisis in Search of Solutions
by Clark Carr
President, Narconon International
The author attended the Hope 2000 International Conference on HIV, Substance Abuse, Prevention and Control at the close of last year in India, where drug abuse is out of control and an estimated 10 million men, women and children are HIV-positive.
The 250 delegates from 29 nations met to discuss solutions to the mixture of rampant drug use and AIDS. A deadly problem with global implications, this situation is compounded by a world becoming more interconnected than ever before.
|Clark Carr, president of Narconon International, was one of 250 delegates from 29 nations to address the world crisis of drug addiction and AIDS at a conference in Bombay, India.|
Today, distant populations are not only morally our brethren, they are our business partners. Because American educational systems cannot train our own youth fast enough, the U.S. high-tech business establishment may import 300,000 or more educated techies from around the world in the next few years. Many among this technical work force will come from countries such as India and Russia, where many pursue Internet-related livelihoods. But in both countries, two of many so afflicted, heroin addiction and AIDS are skyrocketing.
A message from the Hope 2000 Conference could effect solutions on the scale needed to curb the spread of these modern plagues and what has become an international crisis.
tragedy of catastrophic dimensions is unfolding in India, where the number of people testing HIV-positive is doubling almost every year. Initially contracted by shared needles among drug users, the disease in India, as in Africa, has spread through heterosexual relations. Complex and expensive pharmaceutical treatment of AIDS, coupled with widespread education about the danger of dirty needles, has slowed the progression of this epidemic in the West and bought Western nations time.
In India, however, AIDS drugs produced by Western pharmaceutical companies are vastly too expensive for its lower standard of living and only a few Indian companies manufacture any of the drugs now generically available. Since the Hope 2000 conference, negotiations have continued between Third World nation states and the pharmaceutical giants to approve local production of HIV medications. Meanwhile, Indian leaders are still struggling to get widespread anti-drug and safe sex messages communicated effectively to their vast population.
|AIDS victim in India|
As elsewhere in the world, the epidemic starts with intravenous drug use. In India, addiction to brown sugar, as the baser and cheaper form of heroin is called, preceded the AIDS epidemic and continues to create its own social chaoscriminality, immorality, community degeneration. The issues of AIDS and drug abuse are inseparable, even though in India AIDS has now become an uncontrollable epidemic through heterosexual sex.
In the Western world, if a heroin or other I.V. drug user becomes infected, he may be sick for years or even arrest his condition when treated with HIV-resistant medications. In India, once an addict finds he is HIV-positive, he is usually dead within two years. Because of the lack of medications, progression from HIV-positive to fatal AIDS illnesses often occur within one year. Put more bluntly, in India, addiction to heroin or brown sugar is virtually a death sentence, carried out within 12 to 18 months.
The appalling formula is this: Men become HIV-positive and, before they discover this fact, infect their wives. The men die first, often leaving behind pregnant HIV+ mothers, who give birth to HIV-positive newborns. The mothers die soon thereafter, leaving both their HIV-positive child and any earlier healthy children orphans. The orphan population is increasing geometrically in India.
As with Africa, India lacks a sophisticated infrastructure, and no one in authority even claims to know what to do. Some know the direction to move in and have proven projects which, if broadly implemented, could save literally millions of lives. But they dont know how to implement them. What they face is ignorance, inexperience, disorganization, confusion, disagreement, inter-disciplinary argumentation. The ship of mankind is sinking, one could say, and arguments take place on What IS a leak, really? Or, Does one drown from absorbing water in the lungs, or from the lack of air? Lets do a multimillion-dollar study over the next 10 years.
There are people with their feet on the ground in America and Europe who may not know how to cure AIDS, but who do know how to help people who have been diagnosed as HIV-positive to live longer. There are people who do know how to get addicts off drugs. These professionals need business support, administrative know-how and backup. The enemies of civilization certainly have their business and marketing acts together. Shouldnt we on the side of civilization be able to get ourselves organized, too?
|Heroin addict in India|
Among the attendees were Internet specialists from places as distant as Estonia. Charitable institutions discussed their experiences in the struggle against drug addiction and AIDS in locations as diverse as England, Italy and the Ukraine. Community integration groups were represented, notably by an excellent team from Sonoma County, California, which described bringing different branches of the community and government to work together instead of in competition or independently. Representatives from a Toronto, Canada, health group spoke of creating a closely collaborating team of professionals to work in constant communication as they diagnose drug abuse and other problems, plan out workable solutions for the community, and study the results, feeding back what works and what doesnt.
One repeated, cogent message from the conference concerned the need for a more prominent role by local business communities in each country in solving the crisis. Their expertise in developing strategy and resources, coordinating diverse functions, organizing for production and bringing planning to fruition could radically change the course of this population-threatening calamity.
As one Indian corporate executive stated, General Motors GNP is greater than all but 19 countries of the world. Such companies and their senior executives must learn to behave like states because, in truth, they are bigger than most states. He spoke of good corporate citizenship, much more than discrete practices, a whole package of management thinking.
At a time when hundreds of thousands of angry citizens hold protest rallies outside meetings of the global business community such as the World Trade Organization, complaining that Third World and other outsider interests are not being well considered, it behooves international business to step up and actively participate in the on-the-street affairs and concerns of citizens worldwide. This includes addressing the average citizens dismay at the international scourges of drug abuse and AIDS.
Some businesses are getting involved, an encouraging sign. One Indian executive spoke of four faces of corporate responsibilityeconomic, legal, ethical and philanthropicsaying that the business community had an obligation to give back. He recommended businesses offer more seed capital to launch programs, indirect in-kind donations, employee assistance programs, sponsorship of public education initiatives, opening your doorsthat is, giving NGOs access to spaces, audio-visual equipment, and so onand directly sponsored programs.
This corporate speaker also advised conference attendees how, in their grant applications, they should show the corporation what benefit it will get from funding drug rehabilitation or AIDS prevention.
Business does in fact get real benefit from supporting research and services in the fields of drug rehabilitation and AIDS. These include:
(1) The corporate image will thrive. Customers are loyal to companies that reflect their values, and saving lives reflects public values.
(2) The corporation will attract quality employees if they observe that the corporation is setting trends in social responsibility.
(3) The corporation will likely receive less regulatory supervision because of enhanced public responsibility and image.
(4) Creating seminars to raise awareness and understanding of drug abuse and related issues among corporate executives and staff reduces alcohol and other drug abuse in the business world.
(5) Corporate involvement legitimizes social issues.
|Heroin addict in Russia displays needle tracks|
I would add this suggestion: The business community is more efficient than international agencies in finding or creating workable solutions. The business community, therefore, should apply its expertise and skills to the drug abuse and AIDS issues. It should evaluate these escalating world epidemics with a practical and experienced business view, and proper data collection, so that realistic, not theoretical, planning can be accomplished.
A Resolvable Issue
As the president of Narconon International, I brought my organizations expertise to the conference. Narconon has for decades been dedicated to the educational, drug-free approach to drug rehabilitation and to face-to-face drug-prevention lectures to millions of children, young adults, and community leaders.
The international Narconon network of centers has demonstrated that drug addiction is a resolvable issue in individual lives. Narconon has for years shown that nutritional care and
To change worldwide statistics of doom and gloom, it is critical that we find out what is effective and to start doing it as broadly as possible and as quickly as possible. All of us in the drug rehabilitation community, laboring to save lives worldwide, need help, good common-sense business help, to get the job done.
We cannot afford to wait while we leave others to bring under control what we think is a distant problem. It is no longer that far away.
If it was your mother or son, sister or brother dying, you would be asking all of us addressing the crisis to speed up our efforts.
At the Hope 2000 Conference, one doctor said in frustration, AIDS is spread through sex, blood, and ignorance. Ignorance is the most dangerous factor and the one that we can most easily do something about! Perhaps, ignorance has cost humanity more than any of its other faults. Let those in the West who know how to apply business solutions to complex problems put their knowledge to the test of saving lives, no matter the country, no matter the distance. We cannot pretend any longer to be ignorant of what needs to be done.
* The next Hope conference is in 2001-2002 in Bombay, India. Individuals interested in attending the conference or in assisting in resolving this issue can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.