I take letters to the editor seriously. Particularly ones like the letter printed this month from AIDS Calgary, accusing me of misinforming and deliberately misleading readers to promote “bigotry” and “ignorance.”
In the April editorial I referred to AIDS as a homosexual disease, and I believe I was right to do so. Since the AIDS virus was first identified – and named GRID (Gay-Related Immunodeficiency Disease) – its victims have primarily been homosexuals. Its spread to others came first through AIDS-infected persons donating blood, thereby putting at risk those who need blood or blood products. In 1986 the AIDS virus is being spread in Canada almost exclusively by sexual contact with an infected person.
During the last couple of months, I’ve spent much time on the phone collecting information on AIDS, mainly from people at the Ministry of Health in Toronto, at the Ontario Public Education Panel on AIDS, and at the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control (LCDC) in Ottawa.
The July figures show 614 reported AIDS victims in Canada since the disease was first recorded in 1982. Already 311 have died. (July 7, 1986, LCDC.) This represents 565 adult males, 32 adult females and 17 children.
Among adults, AIDS victims fall into six groups:
- Homosexual or bisexual men, 496 cases (representing 80.8 per cent of the total);
- Those from an endemic area, such as Haiti or Africa, 50 cases (8.1 per cent);
- Persons who contracted the disease from blood or blood products, 20 cases (3.3 per cent);
- Heterosexual partner of one in a high risk group, 13 cases (2.1 per cent)
- Intravenous drug users, 2 cases (.3 per cent);
- A further 16 cases (2.6 per cent) are classified as “other/unknown.”
The risk of catching AIDS through blood transfusions is now virtually nil because of better blood-screening procedures and voluntary withdrawal from blood donor programmes by high-risk individuals. “It is not fair to say this is a major problem in North America,” Kim Elmslie at the LCDC in Ottawa told me.
Nor is it fair to say that IV drug abusers constitute a rapidly increasing group in Canadian AIDS statistics. Dr. Evelyn Wallace of the Ontario Ministry of Health says that the Canadian pattern of drug abuse differs from that in the U.S.A. while American drug addicts (particularly those in New York), run the risk of becoming infected through sharing contaminated needles in “shooting galleries,” Canadian drug addicts tend to be more private in their drug use.
Putting the matter into perspective without scorning either AIDS or drug addiction: in 1984, 172 men and 119 women died from accidental drug overdoses (latest Statistics Canada figures). To date, only two of the AIDS cases reported were related primarily to drug abuse.
It is incorrect, as well as misleading, to cite global statistics as showing that AIDS affects homosexuals and heterosexuals in equal proportion. This is true in neither North America nor Western Europe. It does apply for Africa, where the primary source of infection in unhygienic medical practices (re-using needles to preserve scarce supplies), further complicated by large population migration, break-up of families, prostitution, and higher rates of other infections which increase vulnerability of the virus.
There isn’t room here to discuss adequately the claim that the “safe sex” campaign “ardently practiced by the gay populations in North America” has dramatically decreased all sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is true, however, that rates for syphilis and gonorrhea have dropped, but it is equally true that the incidence of other STDs, specifically those of chlamydia and herpes are on the rise.
Now, you may be unaware of what is meant by the term “safe sex.” Briefly, it denotes limiting the number of sexual partners the individual has, making sure a condom is used, and avoiding some of the particularly distasteful sexual practices. (If readers think I am being perjorative in using the word “distasteful” here, I would suggest they obtain some samples of the leaflets put out by homosexual organizations describing these acts. The one put out by a group in Vancouver – a group supported by government funds – is particularly nauseating.)
The number of cases of AIDS is still doubling every 10 to 12 months. In Ontario, the incidence of infection remains a constant 94 per cent homosexual. In Canada as a whole, it stands at 80.8 per cent homosexual. The experts I spoke to said they don’t believe this pattern will change. Still, a few women (and through them, their children) are becoming infected.
How are women being advised to protect themselves? This is how the fact sheet, “Women and AIDS,” issued by the Ontario Ministry of Health puts it:
“…avoid sexual contact with:
- Anyone whose history and health status is unknown;
- Multiple partners or with persons who have had multiple partners
- Bisexual men or men who have had a homosexual contact since 1980;
- Persons who abuse intravenous drugs.”
In case anyone thinks I reprinted the above to ridicule it, I didn’t. it probably sounds good to the majority but there is, let’s face it, a simple ethic underlying these careful caveats.
In simpler terms it says: be chaste before marriage; make sure the man you marry has also remained chaste; stay faithful to your husband. Although this was written for women, men should understand the same cautions apply to them.
Perhaps it’s too much to expect that such simple language (or old-fashioned ideas) would be acceptable today especially if (horrors!) they were promoted by our own government. And yet, surely this is another signal that the sexual revolution has failed miserably.
In my June column, I explained why this newspaper raises many of the issues affecting the family today. We do not report on practicing homosexuals, AIDS victims, or anyone else out of a malicious desire to see individuals haunted: we do so in order to alert those concerned to the factions working to erode family values.
As our “letters” column frequently shows, our editorial stands are often unpopular. What surprises (and depresses) me is the extent to which the malaise has spread; how many have been sucked into the strange vortex of public opinion an dhow few there are who are willing to stand up for honoured principles which have sustained us for centuries.