“Aids in this country remains overwhelmingly a gay disease. Why don’t we say this? Why does every AIDS campaign I have seen pretend an equality of risk? Perhaps we could all get AIDS, but in fact only a certain limited category of men are mostly getting it,” the Globe and Mail’s science columnist Stephen Strauss wrote a little over two years ago.
But as the last issue of The Interim showed, the cover-up continues. An information folder put out by Halton Region Health Department in Ontario, containing a number of pamphlets with most from Health and Welfare Canada, illustrates how the pretence that all are equally at risk, and all need to buy condoms to lower that risk, still goes on.
A Halton pamphlet Helping Your Community Prevent AIDS explains what the virus is and how it is spread.
In reply to the question, “How do I protect myself?” the inevitable answer is produced: practice safer sex, including “always using a condom for oral, anal or vaginal intercourse.”
A separate “Risk Thermometer” asking, “How Safe Are You?”, points out that you can lower your risk of catching AIDS “by using a condom with every sexual partner, every time.”
The road to happiness, it seems obvious, lies through using the products of the rubber goods companies; the road to financial security, it seems equally obvious, must lie through buying their shares.
A Health and Welfare pamphlet-AIDS in the 90’s: The New Facts of Life- offers useful information on the causes and symptoms of the disease, but when it comes to protection, it hammers home the usual message, “Remember, a condom must be used correctly in order to be effective and must be used every time.”
Another pamphlet- Woman and AIDS- is much more specific and graphic, even showing how a condom is put on an erect male member.
“You risk HIV infection if you have vaginal sex without a condom,” is one of the main points emphasized-making it seem that every married woman should ensure her husband always uses one of these devices. The over-emphasis on ‘protection’ continues. Women are told, “Buy your own condoms and learn how to use them. Talk to your friends. Think about ways in which you might raise the subject of condoms with a partner.”
A third pamphlet- We need to know about AIDS- a guide for parents on talking to their children about this subject, is not quite so blatant, but it does suggest that AIDS may need to be discussed with children from 5 to 8 years old, certainly brought up with those in their early teens, and emphasized with those from 13 to 19: “ They need to know about condoms, birth control, and alternative forms of sexual behaviour…”
In spite of the fact that only fifteen cases of AIDS among teenagers had been reported in Canada by December 1990m, the chances of a boy or girl getting AIDS are not minimized but maximized. Again, the lesson that safe sex involves rubber goods is hammered home.
Finally, the collection of materials includes a Xeroxed article by Claudette Curran of Planned Parenthood Ottawa, describing what parents can do for their children. “Talk to them frankly about the use of condoms and spermicides ” is part of the message. Again the disease of AIDS is made to seem very threatening: “ To prevent AIDS from killing tomorrows young adults, we must take steps NOW to guide our children toward productive and healthy lifestyles.”
In a sense this is quite true, but the differences between productive and unproductive, healthy and unhealthy lifestyles aren’t made clear.
Nowhere is it stated in this article, or made clear in any of the other materials, that AIDS is still chiefly passed on through homosexual practices among men.
Thus, the cover-up to which Stephen Strauss, Andrew Nikiforuk and others have referred still goes on.
The federal Health and Welfare department, and regional health departments as well, still do not believe that honesty is the best policy.