AIDS Flies the Koop

The MSM admits that AIDS mainly affects homosexuals.

The Mainstream Media recently had another "reality moment" when WCBS-TV, a CBS affiliate, reported:

New data indicate New York City residents are contracting the virus that causes AIDS at three times the national rate. Health officials attribute the city's relatively high rate of new infections to its large populations of gay men, blacks and other groups on whom HIV has traditionally taken a heavy toll.

That's the first time in decades that we can recall a mainstream news source specifically associating the AIDS epidemic with homosexual men; they've always pretended that American heterosexuals are as vulnerable as homosexuals even though census data have showed the contrary for a long time.

In many ways, the politics of AIDS are as fascinating as its epidemiology.  Why would our media deliberately lie about such a deadly disease?

Misrepresentation started with Dr. C. Everett Koop, our Surgeon General in the 1980s.  Dr. Koop swore up and down that everyone was going to get HIV and then AIDS.  His stated position, which became the official position of the US government, was that AIDS had nothing to do with homosexuals.  He continued that drum beat well into the 1990s.

Some material on the web suggests that Dr. Koop's political masters forbade him to say "AIDS is mainly about gay males", and that he was not permitted to speak his mind.  Some writers, such as Ann Coulter, lambaste him for knowingly hiding the link between AIDS and homosexuality for political reasons.  Most available evidence suggests that he stated vehemently that heterosexuals were equally at risk, an assertion that was known to be false from the beginning.

Given the level of controversy that was aroused by the disease, it's hard to figure out why people said what they said at the time.  An account of the history of the discovery of AIDS says:

The CDC allocated only $2 million in 1982 to organize a task force that would investigate this lethal medical mystery.  While some referred to the syndrome as GRID (gay related immunodeficiency), it was AIDS -- acquired immune-deficiency syndrome -- that became the widely-accepted name.  In 1982 it became apparent that the disease was not confined to the gay population.  It seemed, as one DCD researcher indelicately put it, that AIDS sufferers belonged to a "4-H Club" -- Haitians, hookers, heroin users, and homosexuals.

Most people today have forgotten the fear that AIDS inspired a quarter-century ago:

...In 1982 news spread that AIDS could be transmitted through blood transfusions.  In a matter of weeks blood bank donations declined 25 percent.  The case of Ryan White, an Indiana youth who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion and was banned from attending school, received national coverage.  In Florida, the home of three boys afflicted by the virus (through transfusions) was burned to the ground.

Some administration officials blasted Surgeon General C. Everett Koop for being too outspoken in his advocacy of condom use as well as AIDS and sex education in schools.  The Conservative Digest described Koop's approach as "toleration of perversion."  Education Secretary William Bennett called for mandatory AIDS testing for hospital patients, prison inmates, immigrants and marriage license applicants and attacked state laws that made AIDS diagnoses confidential.  Critics argued that confidentiality protected AIDS victims from discrimination and social ostracism. [emphasis added]

Quarantine Stops Diseases

Such extreme concern for the privacy rights of people with AIDS - a deadly, incurable, and communicable disease - emphasized the political nature of AIDS.  In times past, people such as Typhoid Mary who tended to infect other people were put in involuntary quarantine, that is, they were locked up for the protection of society.

AIDS is not as contagious as typhoid fever, but it's both incurable and debilitating.  Historically, it was thought that people should be able to assume that people they encountered in the course of daily life were not carrying deadly diseases.

The job of health departments all over the world is go make sure that people can rely on the general health of other people.  The United States Office of the Surgeon General was established in 1870 as the predecessor to the United States Public Health service for this purpose.

Quarantine does nothing for a person who has a disease; the rationale for using government power to incarcerate Typhoid Mary and thousands of carriers of tuberculosis, scarlet fever, and any number of other communicable diseases is to protect other people from the infection.  The world has been lucky over the past half-century in that no new, highly-contagious, incurable diseases have swept the globe.  Should a new disease appear, there's cause for concern that the blanket condemnation of making the results of AIDS testing available to potential victims sets a precedent for future diseases.

The results of the recent bird-flu scare are not particularly reassuring; despite widespread popular panic, no government made any serious attempts at quarantine.  If bird flu had turned out to be as virulent as first feared, the resistance to imposing any infringement on the rights of disease carriers would have lead to thousands more deaths.  Has our society decided that an infectious individual's right to move around freely outweighs society's right not to be infected?

If AIDS had turned out to be as contagious as originally feared, would voters have insisted that people with AIDS be quarantined?  If not, how many deaths might have been sustained?  Considering the frightening possibilities of a similar situation with another disease as feared as AIDS originally was - the Ebola virus, to name but one - is enough to keep you awake at night.

The AIDS Report

AIDS spread far enough and caused enough fear that General Koop issued the "Surgeon General's Report on AIDS" in 1986.  Instead of calming the waters as both Dr. Koop and the administration had hoped, the report poured oil on troubled flames; the controversy became more vehement, more political, and less factual.

A major case study in political decision-making says:

Koop was also opposed by conservatives outside of the administration. Columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., accused Koop of emphasizing protection at the expense of ethics (O'Connor & Hager, 1987, p. 31).(15) An article in the National Review maintained that it was "lunacy to suggest that the AIDS epidemic will be stopped by educating little children in the exotica of homosexual practices" (Lutton, 1987, p. 54). Conservative activist Phyllis Schafly said that the Surgeon General's Report "looks and reads like it was edited by the National Gay Task Force" ("Disowning the Surgeon General," 1987, p. 17), and denounced Koop for advocating the "teaching of safe sodomy in public schools" (Stanley, 1987, p. 24). Evans and Novak (1987) warned that this was no trivial issue, but "a debate going to the heart of what kind of country this is" (p. 11).

In 1987, the year following the Surgeon General's Report, Dr. Koop said:

AIDS is going to increase ninefold in the U.S. between now and 1990. But among heterosexuals there are going to be twenty times as many cases, so that perhaps 10 percent of the patients will be heterosexual. The curve for heterosexuals contracting AIDS is going up more than twice as fast because they are not taking the precautions homosexuals have learned are essential.

The politics of AIDS because further entangled when Dr. Koop sent a 1989 pamphlet to 104 million households which coined the term "heterosexual AIDS explosion."

AIDS Did Not Explode

With the benefit of hindsight, we know that AIDS did not break out into the American heterosexual population to any great degree.  The available data have clearly indicated for some years that it was not going to break out, but the media have continued to pretend that it would, at least until now.

This is what seems to have happened:

  1. Starting with Dr. Koop's statements in the 80s, a media baseline was established where "AIDS" and "gay males" were never used in the same sentence.
  2. When asked about risk of infection, the media and government, starting with Dr. Koop, addressed heterosexuals as an equally-communicable crowd.  While it is true that heterosexuals can become infected with AIDS by sharing bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, or semen, the statistics showed that, as a practical matter, the disease affects overwhelmingly the homosexual male population, and secondarily the population of intravenous drug users, prostitutes, and their customers.  Law-abiding monogamous heterosexuals are, statistically speaking, extremely unlikely to contract HIV.  For some reason, however, major spokespeople in government and media routinely concealed that simple fact, preferring to characterize everyone as equally vulnerable to the scourge of AIDS.
  3. On the basis of this false scare, the media and government drove an education campaign to bring the "safe sex" message to elementary schools.  Conservatives were outraged as we've seen above.
  4. Throughout the last twenty years, the "gay male only" AIDS figures have held up in census data.  The "heterosexual AIDS explosion" predicted by Dr. Koop failed to materialize.  At this remove, it's difficult to determine why Dr. Koop's public statements differed so radically from reality, but his false statements about AIDS wasted resources, caused unnecessary fears, and didn't help contain the disease.
  5. The CBS article cited above shows that government officials and the media are finally attributing rises in AIDS rates to homosexual behavior.  This is the first time since the initial labeling of the disease as GRID (gay related immunodeficiency) that the media have admitted that AIDS is mainly an issue of the homosexual population.

The CBS article refers to "gay men, blacks and other groups on whom HIV has traditionally taken a heavy toll." Unfortunately for blacks, AIDS appeared first in Africa and has had more time to adapt itself to infecting people of African descent.  It's no surprise that different groups are affected differently by disease - Africans are more susceptible to sickle-cell anemia than whites and are less susceptible to skin cancer, for example.

We've commented on the fact that some liberal media are beginning to understand that our welfare policies can have dire consequences - we've noted that Time has realized that food aid to Ethiopia has made the overall famine situation worse.

We're encouraged that the situation with AIDS is becoming so obvious that even CBS feels constrained to point out the truth.  One wonders at how much unnecessary panic, cost, and classroom time were wasted on this deception.

There's more good news.  The New York Times covered the story; they were even blunter:

Sex between men was the main cause in 50 percent of new infections; high-risk heterosexual sex in 22 percent; intravenous drug use in 8 percent; and unknown or uncertain causes in 18 percent.

It's always gratifying when liberals see the light.  As Richard Feynman put it in the Rogers Commission Report on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

Maybe nature can't be fooled, but liberals sure think the rest of us can.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments
This is a good report on AIDS as a sort-of conclusion to the fear mongering and hysteria the media tried to spread across everyone. I guess that is one battle they have given up.

I hope that we'll see the same sort of common sense conclusion to other issues the media skews including: abortion, illegal immigration and gun rights. On abortion and gun rights, I think we have already seen some of this.

My what a difference a few decades makes.
September 18, 2008 8:34 AM
Moscow's mayor recently linked gays to the spread of AIDS.

The truth continues to hurt.
December 4, 2008 10:47 AM
AIDS is older than thought - the Times says it has been in monkeys for 32,000 years. The issue is, what happened recently to make it cross over into humans?

In a discovery that sheds new light on the history of AIDS, scientists have found evidence that the ancestor to the virus that causes the disease has been in monkeys and apes for at least 32,000 years - not just a few hundred years, as had been previously thought.

That means humans have presumably been exposed many times to S.I.V., the simian immunodeficiency virus, because people have been hunting monkeys for millenniums, risking infection every time they butcher one for food.

And that assumption in turn complicates a question that has bedeviled AIDS scientists for years: What happened in Africa in the early 20th century that let a mild monkey disease move into humans, mutate to become highly transmissible and then explode into one of history's great killers, one that has claimed 25 million lives so far?

Among the theories different researchers have put forward are the growth of African cities and the proliferation of cheap syringes.

Confirming that the virus is very old also helps explain why it infects almost all African monkeys but does not sicken them. Over many generations, as any disease kills off vulnerable victims, the host adapts to it.

The new research, published Thursday in Science magazine, was relatively simple. Scientists tested 79 monkeys from Bioko, a volcanic island 19 miles off the West African coast. Bioko used to be the end of a peninsula attached to the mainland in what is now Cameroon, but it was cut off when sea levels rose 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

Since then, six monkey species have developed in isolation on the island, and scientists from the National Primate Research Center at Tulane University in Louisiana and other American and African universities found that four of them - drills, red-eared guenons, Preuss's guenons and black colobuses - had members that were infected with S.I.V.

The four strains in the four species were genetically very different from one another - meaning they presumably did not come from monkeys carried over to the island by humans in the last few centuries. But each was close to the strain infecting members of the same four genuses on the mainland, meaning they must have existed before Bioko was cut off.

Knowing that all four strains were at least 10,000 years old, scientists recalculated the virus's "molecular clock," measuring how fast it mutates. They now believe that all the S.I.V. strains infecting monkeys and apes across Africa diverged from a common ancestor between 32,000 and 78,000 years ago.

"When we only had 25 years of data, we were dating from the tip at the end of a branch of the evolutionary tree," said Preston A. Marx, a virologist at the Tulane primate center and an author of the paper in Science. "I knew that what we had before couldn't be right, because the virus had spread from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean to the southern end of the continent, and it couldn't have done that in a couple of hundred years."

Beatrice H. Hahn, a virologist from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a discoverer of the simian virus, called the study "a very nice paper," adding, "This is what people like us have been looking for."

Previous methods of dating the virus had concluded it was a few hundred to 2,000 years old, "and that just didn't seem right," Dr. Hahn said.

The ancestor virus - which, like many diseases, may have crossed into simians from another, still-unknown species - may have existed for millions of years.

That theory was given greater credence two years ago with the discovery that some Madagascar lemurs have in their genomes the remnants of a virus that was not an S.I.V., but related to it. Madagascar, a Texas-size island 250 miles off the southeastern African coast, separated from Africa 160 million years ago. It has no monkeys, but lemurs' ancestors arrived there, possibly on floating mats of vegetation, probably more than 10 million years ago.

H.I.V., which is almost universally fatal to humans, is obviously very new to us. As Dr. Marx pointed out, if it had been in humans before the 20th century, it would have arrived in the Americas in some of the 12 million Africans kidnapped for the slave trade.
September 17, 2010 12:27 PM
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