We live today in a culture of fear. The media is constantly inundating us with things that we need to be afraid of. Terrorists are behind every corner. Crime is on every street corner. A sexual predator might be next door. AIDS is ravaging the world. Our media-driven fears result in reactions that are often unjustified and irrational.

AIDS is a global problem, like many diseases. However, increasingly, health experts are stating that the AIDS crisis is being exaggerating by the media and world governments, to the detriment of the public.

Just look at Barack Obama’s video on World’s AIDS Day:

Obama says: HUMANITARIAN CRISIS. GLOBAL PANDEMIC. DISASTER. The language implies that AIDS is a huge world problem that is on a par with poverty, cancer or pneumonia. Guess what? It isn’t.

Many experts now argue that AIDS has largely been curbed in much of the world, and that we should not prioritize AIDS over other less publicized illnesses, like pneumonia or diarrhea. Why is there so much fanfare for World AIDS Day, and there is no World Pneumonia Day or World Diarrhea Prevention Day? Diarrhea kills FIVE times more people each year than AIDS according to the U.N.

“The global HIV industry is too big and out of control. We have created a monster with too many vested interests and reputations at stake, … too many relatively well paid HIV staff in affected countries, and too many rock stars with AIDS support as a fashion accessory,” Roger England of Health Systems Workshop, a think thank that researches health issues, wrote in the British Medical Journal.

In addition, U.N. officials estimate that about 33 million people worldwide have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. According to U.N. reports, the number of HIV infections peaked in the 1990s and is now largely under control in the developed world. In terms of raw number, AIDS should not be a priority in our health policy.

Yet AIDS funding accounts for a grossly disproportionate amount of funding for health policy worldwide. For example, in Rwanda, $47 million went to HIV related funding, while $18 million went to malaria, and $1 million went to childhood illnesses. According to U.N reports, malaria kills far more people in Rwanda than AIDS.

Diarrhea, malnutrition, pneumonia, cancer, heart disease, tuberculosis, hepatitis, malaria and many other diseases each kill far more people per year than AIDS, but AIDS hogs the attention and money simply because it is in the news and those other less glamorous diseases are not. Experts like Mr. England are rightly complaining that the media is dictating priorities.

What should we be scared of? Obviously, we should all take proper precautions against sexually transmitted disease, be it through safe sex or abstinence. However, we would save more lives by cleaning up water supplies and putting up mosquito nets rather than spending millions in scarce funds on AIDS.