Like most people, these last two weeks I have been captivated by the spectacle that is the Olympic Games. In a summer that has been defined by such tragedies as mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin and an increasingly violent civil war in Syria, watching Olympic athletes vie for medals in largely peaceful competition offers some much-needed respite.
Most of us were shocked and deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred last Friday at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people lost their lives and another 58 were wounded – 11 critically – during one of the worst mass shootings in US history.
Coming just two days before the anniversary of the massacre in Norway, and close on the heels of such US-based tragedies as the shootings at Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson and Columbine High School, what happened in Aurora has sparked considerable debate and controversy.
Smoking remains the number one cause of preventable deaths in the US. Last year, nearly half a million people died of smoking-related illnesses like emphysema and lung cancer. That’s nearly one of every five deaths, a number that is greater than the number of deaths caused by AIDS, drug and alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. Smoking also costs American taxpayers and businesses over $150 billion a year in terms of health care and lost productivity – that’s approximately $7 for every pack of cigarettes sold.
An estimated 34 million people around the world are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Most of these individuals live in developing countries, but approximately 1.2 million Americans are infected. At least of third of those living with HIV/AIDS in the US are unaware of their status.
Dr. Robert Spitzer, one of the leading psychiatrists in the US, recently did something remarkable. In a letter published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior on May 19th he humbly wrote, “I owe the gay community an apology.”
He was apologizing for a study -- first presented in 2001 and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2003 -- that examined at whether or not therapy could make gay people straight. Dr. Spitzer concluded that it could, based on interviews of 200 men and women recruited from centers that offered so called “reparative” or “conversion” therapy.