The politically correct mantra about HIV/AIDS is that “anybody can get it.” This half-truth is as bizarre as pointing to the tragic death of professional naturalist Steve Irwin, best known as “The Crocodile Hunter,” and saying “anyone can die from the barb of a stingray.” There is an obvious missing piece in both instances. You’re not going to die from a stingray’s barb unless you dive in waters that are home to stingrays. Likewise, unless you (1) Have intimate sexual contact with someone who is infected with the HIV/AIDS virus, (2) Share contaminated needles to do drugs, or (3) Are a healthcare worker who comes in direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person (or as in the heartrending case of Kimberly Bergalis, who contracted AIDS from her infected dentist), you will not, I repeat, you will NOT contract HIV/AIDS.
Another phony slogan foisted off on the public is that women are the “new face of HIV/AIDS.” These myths are among the pernicious efforts to disperse the stigma associated with a disease that is almost exclusively a homosexual male and drug addict epidemic. Insidious myths like these leave today’s young people misinformed, misled and, thus, unprotected.
In fact, Unprotected is the title of an important book that every parent of teenage children needs to read. It exposes the political correctness that leaves college students especially vulnerable to a whole range of health and emotional problems. The author, Miriam Grossman, M.D., is a psychiatrist who has worked for two decades with college students and served during the past decade at the student health center at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Others have commented on various aspects of Dr. Grossman’s exposé of the biases that harm students at university student health centers. I was especially appalled that basic medical knowledge about the transmission of the HIV/AIDS virus is kept from students. In spite of the fact that we are now well past the quarter century mark in the AIDS epidemic, and in spite of the fact that 1 in every 500 college students may be HIV positive, basic HIV/AIDS information is not known by the general public; our students in particular, the very ones most in need of truth to reinforce self-discipline, are not fully informed about the facts.
We treat HIV/AIDS differently from any other public health threat. While doctors are required by law to report nearly 50 communicable diseases (including tuberculosis, measles, syphilis, meningitis), and people with those communicable diseases are ordered by law to get treatment or go to jail, United States laws prohibit disclosure of anyone’s HIV status. Even the HIV tests use a code name to avoid identifying any infected persons. Thus, the only way anyone knows that a person has the virus is if that information is voluntarily given.
Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in the United States there are 40,000 new HIV cases per year and about 900,000 people living with the disease, with nearly 250,000 of those people unaware that they are infected. In response, the CDC recommends that the public be non-judgmental and they identify racism, discrimination, stigma and homophobia as reasons for the spread of the epidemic! As Dr. Grossman points out, instead of the public health programs which successfully controlled cholera, polio and syphilis, we fight the AIDS epidemic, a disease that has already claimed a half million victims in the U.S., with programs about cultural sensitivity. Such is the power of homosexual activists who waged a “privacy” campaign and, as noted by Dr. Grossman, won special status for HIV/AIDS among infectious diseases: voluntary and anonymous testing and no partner notification.
As a result of the shortsighted homosexual activists’ campaign, people who are at risk for the disease are blasé about their behavior and their disease status. At the same time, politically correct slogans like “anyone can get it” and “women are the new face of HIV/AIDS” blatantly misstate the nature of the risk faced by the general public.
While signs everywhere warn “anybody can get it,” those who are highly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS remain the same as nearly 30 years ago. HIV is still (and has been since the outset) primarily concentrated in the same high-risk groups –– men having sex with men, and intravenous drug users. Some studies are now claiming that heterosexual victims constitute up to 30 percent of the total number of cases. Look closely, though, and the definitions in those studies have changed. The fine print reveals that the heterosexual category includes persons who have had sex with bisexual men and drug users. The most common route of sexual transmission of HIV remains anal intercourse. Yet, billboards proclaim that “HIV is here to stay and anybody can get it!” Just as 80 percent of lung cancers are related to using tobacco, the vast majority of HIV/AIDS victims are homosexual men or drug addicts. It is their behavior –– anal intercourse and sharing needles –– that puts them at risk. To be blunt, the rectal lining, unlike the vaginal lining, is a relatively porous barrier that is only one cell thick (the lower intestine is designed to absorb fluids — that is the very essence of its function); thus, it is quite easy for the HIV virus to transit through the intestinal wall into the blood stream and target cells. Some experts estimate that it only takes about 10 minutes for the virus to break through the barriers to infect the victim.
In regards to women’s vulnerability to HIV, to be blunt again, the HIV virus can burrow through natural barriers, enter the blood stream, gain access to deeper tissues and reproduce much more easily in the rectum than in the vagina. Thus, women are better protected against the virus. Dirty needles bypass the skin barrier of addicts; likewise, a nursing infant of an infected mother is directly vulnerable to the virus. The healthy vagina, however, has a strong lining that is infection resistant, and under normal circumstances, its tremendous elasticity minimizes the risk of tears and abrasions so that the HIV virus, barring a weakening of the system, has great difficulty breeching its natural barriers. Thus, according to Dr. Grossman, some researchers contend that vaginal transmission is very rare. This view is supported by the fact that studies of prostituted women reveal that AIDS is found overwhelmingly only among those who are also intravenous drug abusers.
In spite of the availability of this information in the medical literature, the politically correct messages still mislead the American public. Billboards still brazenly declare that “anybody can get it” and “women are the new face of HIV/AIDS.” It’s time that we told it like it is: HIV/AIDS is spread primarily by anal sex, sharing needles or having a sexual partner who does those things. Health care professionals aside, if you don’t dive into the waters of promiscuous sex and drug use, you won’t have to fear the deadly barb of AIDS.