A recent letter in the Toronto Globe complained about a reference to AIDS as a homosexual disease. It wasn’t so, the writer stated, accusing the person making the original statement of homophobia (hatred or fear of homosexuals). The real fear today, however, is associated with the refusal to admit that it is a homosexual disease; over nine-tenths of those in Canada who have it, got it through homosexual activities.
A pamphlet published by the Ontario Ministry of Health entitled AIDS: Let’s talk is a case in point. It gives the impression of full and frank information about the disease. What it says is, in the main, true: the virus is passed on through sexual intercourse with someone who is infected, or by sharing needles which contain blood infected by the virus. It does not say, however, that the main method of transmission, in this country at least, is by anal intercourse. When it asks the question “Who gets AIDS?” it gives an answer which is very misleading: “Anyone can get AIDS. Most people in North America who have AIDS are men. In Africa, as many women as men have AIDS. The virus can be passed from man to man, from man to woman and from woman to man.”
It can be passed on in these three ways. But is it? In our country? A news article in the Toronto Star in April 1987 pointed out that in Toronto, Canada’s AIDS capital, 96 per cent of AIDS carriers are homosexuals.
Another example of this continued confusion and how it may be found in the strangest place is the Catholic missalette Living with Christ, July to September 1988. It contains an insert on “AIDS: A Community Response” by Dr. Richard Haughian, Director of Education of the Catholic Health Association of Canada. He too denies that the disease mainly affects one category of persons: “Some wrongly identify AIDS as a homosexual disease and inflict on the sick persons their homophobic (fear of homosexuality) prejudices and anxieties. This attitude discriminates against others because of sexual orientation.” By an ad hominem attack, Dr. Haughian tries to dismiss the fact that AIDS is predominately a homosexual disease.
In an article entitled “AIDS: Are Heterosexuals at Risk?” which appeared in Commentary, November 1987, Michael A. Fumento threw considerable light on this question. We have been told, he said, that AIDS is not a “gay disease” or a disease of intravenous drug users, but that it can break out into the heterosexual population at any time, and that when it does so it will become “a national disaster as great as a thermonuclear war.” He quotes a number of magazine articles which says this, for example, the U.S. New & World Report declared in January 1987 that: the disease of them is suddenly the disease of us. The slow death presumed just a few years ago to be confined to homosexuals, Haitians, and hemophiliacs is now a plaque of the mainstream, finding fertile growth among heterosexuals.”
U.S. Surgeon General Everett Koop added to the hysteria by forecasting that AIDS cases overall were going to increase ninefold by 1990, but twenty times among heterosexuals.
In answer, Fumento quotes Dr. Harold Jaffe, chief epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, as saying that, “Those who are suggesting that we are going to see an explosive spread of AIDS in the heterosexual population have to explain why this isn’t happening.”
Randy Shilts, author of a book on the coming of the AIDS crisis entitled And the Band Played On (1987), said something similar: “In two or three years heterosexuals are going to wake up and see that they’re not getting the disease. Then what?”
For physiological reasons which Fumento explains, homosexual transmission is easier than heterosexual. In North America at least the disease remains one of homosexuals and intravenous drug users.
The typical victim of heterosexually-transmitted AIDS in the United States, he writes, is a lower-class black woman who is the regular partner of an IV drug user. He continues, “White heterosexuals make up approximately one-half of one per cent of all AIDS cases; as of September 14, 1987, of 1,250 such cases reported, only 254 whites were listed as being heterosexually infected.”
But what about Africa? Doesn’t the situation there prove that the disease can be transmitted as easily through heterosexual contact as through homosexual? Fumento explains that a host of factors (which he discusses) exists in Africa which do not exist in the U.S.; these fictions greatly facilitate the spread of the virus in nonsexual ways. He sums it up as follows:
“The African AIDS epidemic is devastating. But it is uniquely African. We can no more deduce transmission patterns in the United States from Africa than we can assume that because Africans suffer periodic famine, we will too.”
Father Rene Bel, an expert on population issues, who teaches at a seminary in Ghana, even disputes many of the things said about AIDS in Africa – especially the common notion that the virus came from here. For instance, Randy Shilts writes that the history of the virus is easy to piece together. Father Bel replies that there are multiple hypotheses to offer and he quotes a French expert, Professor Peillet, as saying that it not even clear that the African disease and the European one are identical.
The numbers games played with Africa, Father Bel contends, are ludicrous beyond belief. The World Health Organization put the number of cases in Africa at two million in 1986. Calculating that there are twenty cases for each one known, they arrived at a figure of some forty million for Africa as a whole; and other estimates soar all the way up to a hundred million. According to these projections, there might be 80 million deaths in the next decade; vast areas would be depopulated, whole nations would be wiped out.
Father Bel gives such prognostications no credence whatsoever, they are sensational and alarmist. They fit stating the risk of a national epidemic and depriving the government of credibility. The paper referred to a prediction by Sir David Cox and a group of scientists, published at virtually the same time. They settled for a much more modest estimate of 13,000 by 1992. Even this was rejected by the Telegraph as far too high; its own guess, published shortly before, suggested that an incipient decline in the AIDS epidemic would lead to only 5,000 cases in 1992.
Mellor made the supposition that the disease is highly infectious within a large susceptible population which made no effort to alter its sexual behaviour. The Telegraph disputed this. Even the Cox estimate, it said, has already been overtaken by events: “The number of new cases has not continued to rise steadily. Indeed, it has remained stubbornly constant at around 200 for each quarter of the last 18 months.”
The Telegraph argument followed along Fumento’s lines: “the AIDS virus is of a very low infectivity, especially, it seems, between heterosexuals.” In support it cited a report in the American Journal of Medicine concerning the wives of infected hemophiliacs: “despite several years of regular unprotected heterosexual intercourse only one of them contracted the disease, and her case was exceptional because she had been receiving immuno-suppressant drugs for multiple sclerosis.” With the latest U.K. figure showing only seven cases of heterosexual transmission out of a total of 1,862, it would take decades for sufficient numbers to reach the sort of levels Mellor and Cox predicted. The paper observed, “It is so curious that Professor Cox’s projections simply ignore the most important observation about the AIDS epidemic – that the number of new cases has remained static for 18 months – that one wonders about what pressure they were under to produce their predictions.”
Is there a deliberate effort on the part of public health officials to frighten people into adopting “safer” sexual habits by prospect of an ever-rising epidemic? Or is it a question of special interest groups, stampeding governments into spending hundreds of millions of dollars in fighting this social disease?
Delegates attending a conference in Edinburgh on World AIDS Day, November 30, 1988, were assured that one in every hundred males between 15 and 45 in the city already had the disease, that it would be the major cause of death among males in this age group by the early 1990s, and that alcohol consumption which “loosened sexual inhibitions” would be responsible for speeding up its spread.
Be that as it may, pro-life organisations should be concerned about loosening up sexual inhibitions directly through the fear of AIDS. This fear has produced a demand for AIDS education in schools, beginning at the earliest possible age: children are to be taught the facts of reproduction – and the use of condoms – before they can spell.
Such teaching will not cut down the level of promiscuity but increase it. Contrary to popular belief, it is also going to increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and the number of abortions. If society is not as much at risk from AIDS as has been feared, it is certainly very much at risk from campaigns for AIDS prevention.