“The honeymoon is over,” said an official from Ghana in commenting on the Sixth International Conference on AIDS held in San Francisco at the end of June. Some 12,000 scientists and public officials from around the world attended it; but so did thousands of homosexual activists, and they made it clear that they no longer trusted or respected researchers in the field.

Crude plays

While the experts in immunology and health care were presenting papers on HIV infection rates, the advantages of early treatment with AZT, the possibility of large-scale testing of vaccines within two years and man other related topics, the activists took to the streets. They picketed, they blocked traffic, they put on crude passion plays. But they also invaded the conference centre itself – and they came not to praise but to mock. Mervyn Silverman, president of the American Foundation for AIDS Research said, “A couple of years ago I would never have believed what I’m hearing today.” Some of the demonstrators booed leading researchers. They showed no patience with the slow and careful methods of science, which demand controlled experiments and meticulous testing of a drug before it is regarded an effective in the treatment of a disease; they wanted action right away, and large-scale testing was meaningless to them. “These people who do the testing, they don’t go into the shooting galleries,” said one black woman. Larry Kramer, founder of Act Up – the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power – hissed at the scientists when he came to the microphone. “You are co-conspirators , though you think you are heroes.”

‘Gays’ demand action

When Dr. Louis Sullivan, Secretary for Health in the Bush administration, arrived to give the closing speech of the conference, the demonstrators made sure he would not be heard. Before he even began to speak, they unfurled a banner reading “He talks, we die.” As he spoke, they pelted him with wads of paper, blew whistles and horns and shouted, “No more words! We want action!” With a line of police standing between him and the first-shaking protesters, Sullivan asked for “cooperation, tolerance, understanding and caring.” But the protesters shouted, “Get off the stage!”

Demonstrators blocked streets near the city hall on June 22, in the effect held hostage motorists trying to use a main traffic artery; fifty of them were arrested. Again they complained about an under financed system relying too much on worn-out volunteers. San Francisco Mayor, Art Agnos, agreed that more money should be spent on the AIDS crisis, but blamed the federal government for not providing it.

Dangerous lifestyle

Are they being neglected? Should more money be poured into AIDS research? Senator Jesse Helms, whom the homosexuals regard as a troglodyte, asks why the government should spend money to fight a disease spread by immorality, and why the homosexuals should expect to receive assistance when they continue to proselytize for their dangerous lifestyle.

Whether or not one takes Senator Helms’ moralistic approach, it would be hard to maintain that AIDS research is starved of funds. The National Institute of Health in the United States has a budget of about $5.7 million a year, and about a billion of that goes into AIDS research. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. The plain and simple fact is that money has been diverted into this research from other areas of concern which have at least as good a claim to priority. Because the homosexual’s activists are very vocal, because public officials seem to be afraid of offending them, a disproportionate amount of money has been spent on research into their disease.

Who can say that the expense is disproportionate? Women certainly can. Health research is one area where the feminists have a good case which they are only beginning to exploit.

In an amusing article which appeared on June 26, Boston columnist Ellen Goodman claimed that women are largely excluded from medical research even the rats used in laboratories are invariably rodents of the male persuasion, apparently because it is thought that their female counterparts might suffer from “raging hormonal imbalance.” The 4,000 subjects in the cholesterol study were men; so were the 15,000 in the smoking study; se were the 22,000 in the aspirin study. The end result is that women with heart disease and all sorts of other ills are being treated as though they were men.

As Miss Goodman reports, the Congressional Women’s Caucus in Washington has taken up the cause of neglected females and has made some startling discoveries. Of the National Institute of Health budget only about 13 per cent of that $5.7 billion goes to study the health risks of half the population. “When you have a male-dominated group,” said Rep. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado, “they are more worried about prostate cancer than breast cancer.” She mentioned a startling and disgraceful fact; breast cancer, which kills 40,000 women a year, gets only $17 million for basic research.

In other words, breast cancer, which kills ten ties as many in a year as AIDS, gets only one-fortieth the funding for research that AIDS does. Who says that AIDS research is under-funded in comparison to other serious diseases? Who can deny that Act Up has produced unjust rewards? But the rage and fury of Act Up members may provoke ordinary people to ask why so large a proportion of scarce research funds has gone to a disease which is spread chiefly by homosexual males and intravenous drug users, whereas so little has gone to a disease which may strike any woman.