Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Fear and mongering in Manhattan Kansas

Barbara Meyer’s column on AIDS (“AIDS threatens all”!!!) was the usual fear mongering that accompanies this disease whenever it treks onto the op-ed pages or into the news. I know it seems awfully homophobic of it, but the truth is, AIDS is nearly universally a gay, or drug related, disease.


A disease-free man who has unprotected sex with a drug-free woman stands a one in 5 million chance of contracting HIV.
As Bernard Goldberg put it in his book “Bias:”


More than ever, journalists on the Left define themselves by their compassion. They might as well wear big red buttons on their lapels that say “We Care.” AIDS gave them a great opportunity to care, to show how compassionate they could be. To these journalists, AIDS couldn’t just be their disease—it had to be everyone’s disease. Gay men along with blacks and Hispanics might be segregated from other parts of society, but when it comes to AIDS, we’re all in it together. It was journalism by sentiment.
I remember when I was in grade school, hearing about how AIDS was exploding across the country. The fear mongering on TV and throughout society was immense; the world was doomed, AIDS would spread like wildfire. And yet here we are today. Bernard Goldberg cites Michael Fumento, author of the book The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS:


“At least since 1986,” Fumento writes, “the government has been misleading the public on the extent of the AIDS epidemic. That was when the federal Centers for Disease Control decided to move all AIDS sufferers of African and Haitian origin into the category of heterosexual AIDS cases. A man from Zaire who had sex with a dozen other men, shared needles, and had a blood transfusion would, upon diagnosis, automatically be put into the heterosexual category because of his origin.” [emphasis added]
Barbara seizes on the fact that most HIV cases in Kansas didn't appear to involve the traditional risk factors of homosexuality or drug abuse:


According to the Kansas Department of Health, 40 percent of HIV cases in our region are female and 38.5 percent of HIV cases diagnosed in our region between 2000 and 2002 had none of the traditional risk factors such as homosexual or unprotected sex or intravenous drug use.

That means the largest risk factor for HIV in this area is “question mark." We don’t know how these people were exposed to HIV. And that should scare the bejeezus out of you.
Bernard Goldberg remarks on this “question mark” in his book:


People lie about sex and sexually transimitted diseases all the time. “How did
you get syphilis?” the doctor asks. “From the toilet seat,” the embarrassed man
or woman answers. Or simply, “I don’t know.” Isn’t the same likely with AIDS?

The answer seems to be a strong “yes.” During the mid-1980’s, a New York City health department employee, Anastasia Lekatsas, who was dubbed “America’s most dogged street detective of AIDS,” spent hundreds of hours trying to track down the source of HIV among people who claimed they got it from heterosexual sex with someone not in a high-risk groups. According to the New York Times, “If a man claimed to have gotten AIDS from a woman, she would visit him, revisit him, interview his family and friends—and eventually she would almost always find that he’d been sharing needles or having sex with men.” [emphasis added].

I think that the same situation is applicable in Kansas, where there can be great stigma and condemnation placed on drug abuse and homosexuality.

AIDS fears are inflated. The disease is a tragedy, but pretending that everyone is at equal
risk only assists in the spread of the disease by taking the onus off the gay
community to change promiscuous behaviors and realize at how much greater risk they are.

updated for clarity

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