The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS
by Michael Fumento

This is a well written and researched expose of the perverse effects of the media on the public with regard to the problem of AIDS. The author displays his own high-level of intelligence and reveals the ignorance, laziness, and stupidity of most reporters.

The Myth

"The primary myth, however, was that the disease was no longer anchored to these risk groups but was, in fact, going from heterosexual to heterosexual to heterosexual through intercourse, that it was epidemic among non-drug-abusing heterosexuals." (16)

"It is the ultimate triumph of politics over science. (14)

"If the government ran a national breast-cancer campaign in the same way it does with AIDS, for every poster we saw warning of female breast cancer, there would be ten featuring male breast cancer." (About 900 American men contract breast cancer ever year. This is more than the total number of American men who have contracted AIDS through heterosexual intercourse since the AIDS epidemic began.) (151)

Reasons for Spreading the Myth

The main audience for news magazines, which took the lead in promoting the myth, is the white middle-class male. So selling magazines was one motive.

Reporters are ignorant of epidemiology and often of arithmetic and common sense.

The condom industry has a financial interest in promoting the idea that heterosexuals are at great risk for HIV infection if they don't practice "safe sex." So they have made a concerted advertising effort to associate safe sex with use of their products.

Liberal "democratizers" have sought to alarm the general public because:

Conservative alarmists include paranoids and Christian moralists who promote the myth.

The strategy of the Christian moralists who promoted the myth of heterosexual AIDS played right into the hands of their liberal opponents when it resulted in more school children being exposed to sex education and free condoms.

The homosexual lobby promotes the myth because:

Some doctors (but no epidemiologists) are willing to issue preposterous predictions about the spread of AIDS among heterosexuals in order to get publicity for themselves. (256)

"Heterosexuals AIDS is emphasized because heterosexuals make up the vast majority of the population. White heterosexuals are emphasized because they hold the purse strings and the political power and buy the most magazines. Women are emphasized because you can't have 51 percent of the population thinking it's getting by. Children are emphasized because they tear at our heartstrings" (384)

Facts about the Epidemic in the USA

Through August 1989, there were 106,000 AIDS cases reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). (16) Of these:
"Since virtually no one who is not an intravenous drug abuser or homosexual will claim to be one, and since those who are intravenous drug abusers or homosexuals may deny it, the portion of the epidemic assigned to heterosexual transmission will be exaggerated." (361)
In New York City, unlike in most other cities, officials conduct follow-up interviews with those who claim their only exposure to HIV is through heterosexual sex.
"Of 63 men with AIDS who reported prostitute contact but denied other exposure, 42 were later found to have a history of contact with homosexual men or engaged in intravenous drug abuse." (90)
So the already low percentage of AIDS victims who got HIV via heterosexual sex is probably exaggerated.
"At less than 5 percent of the population, homosexual males make up almost 75 percent of the total number of AIDS cases." (152)

"At 12 percent and 9 percent of the population respectively, blacks and Hispanics comprise 30 percent and 15 percent of all AIDS cases." (389)

"while apparently some prostitutes are getting infected by sexual contact, it is not by their customers but through their pimps and boyfriends who themselves were infected through drug abuse." (103)

"From Germany to Nevada to Greece, the lowest levels of HIV seropositivity are found in legal, licensed prostitutes." (106)

"There is an epidemic among homosexuals and bisexuals and their sex partners. There is an epidemic among intravenous drug abusers and their sex partners, which may widen slightly in some areas to include the partners of those partners. But among the great wide percentage of the nation the media calls 'the general population,' that section the media and the public health authorities has tried desperately to terrify, there is no epidemic." (32)

"It would be hard to design a system more efficient in transmitting a blood-borne virus [than a shooting gallery]." (42)

The odds of an already infected man transmitting HIV infection to a woman through intercourse are less than 1 in 1000 acts. (48)
"A middle-class non-IVDA heterosexual ... in almost any area of the country ... has less of a chance of getting AIDS in the next year than of being struck by lightening or drowning in a bathtub" (19)

"A survey of the early homosexual AIDS victims found that they averaged almost 1100 lifetime partners each." (30)

The number of sex partners a person has is irrelevant to the risk of infection. Rather it is the "character" of those partners (whether they belong to the high-risk groups) that determines the risk. (67)
"Choosing a partner who is not in any high-risk group provides almost four orders of magnitude (5000-fold) of protection compared with choosing a partner in the highest-risk category (a male homosexual or IVDA from the areas of the country with the highest HIV prevalences). By contrast, condoms are estimated to provide only one order of magnitude of protection." (68)

"If one's immediate partner has not had a long-term relationship with a member of a high-risk group, the chance of becoming infected from that person is virtually nil." (78)

"... minority women make up over 70 percent of all female AIDS cases (131)

"15 percent of seropositive babies are white, while over 60 percent are black." (131)

"... persons whose income was below the federal poverty level were significantly more likely to be seropositive than those above it." (132)

"Dr. Wayne Greaves has stated, 'The virus appears to be color-blind, though not culture blind.'" (132)

The most important factor in higher rates of minority AIDS is intravenous drug abuse [with shared needles]. The practice of sharing needles differs among the races. (133)

The desire for immediate gratification that prevails among drug abusers makes it less likely that they will take precautions to avoid HIV infection. "As one IVDA prostitute put it, 'If we're not worried about getting bad junk (heroin) that's going to kill us, or getting our throats slit be a weirdo customer, we're sure not going to worry about AIDS.'" (134)

Crack-cocaine use is related to HIV infection. It increases promiscuous sex and prostitution, which increases the likelihood of getting syphilis, which increases the likelihood of getting infected with HIV through heterosexual sex. (138)

Syphilis is virtually nonexistent among white Americans. It is a veritable plague among inner-city blacks. (379) The rate of new HIV infections leveled off in 1984 and has been declining since then. The national AIDS education campaign began in November 1987.

The AIDS Epidemic in Africa

The demographics of the AIDS epidemic in Africa is different from the epidemic outside the third world: The reasons for the differences between the AIDS epidemic in Africa versus the USA include:

The Aids Epidemic in Haiti

The demographics of the AIDS epidemic in Haiti is more similar to Africa than the USA. Possible reasons for this are:

Opportunistic Diseases in the Third World versus in the USA

"With few exceptions, heterosexually transmitted AIDS is the problem—one of many—of Third World countries. It is a symptom of a society with underlying medical and hygienic problems. In a sense, just as AIDS destroys the immune system and allows opportunistic infections to grow, so does a society rife with genital disease and poor hygiene allow heterosexual AIDS the opportunity to proliferate." (128)

"... to the extent we allow African conditions to be imitated here, specifically in the presence of high rates of ulcerating disease, we can have African-type transmission." (143)

Consequences of the Myth of Heterosexual Aids in the USA

Middle-class whites were the most heavily targeted group for education programs and stories about AIDS in the media—despite the fact that they account for less than one half of one percent of all AIDS cases diagnosed in this country. (17)

"Television shows that pretended to be public service messages ended up terrifying those not at risk and inducing complacency in those who were." (143)
Heterosexuals swamped AIDS testing sights, creating long waiting lists in some cities and causing many people to be turned away. Persons truly at risk for carrying the virus could not get tested. (5)
"... by refusing to provide information about what persons and activities were especially risky, the alarmists could be robbing the risk takers of life-saving information—even as the alarmists bandied about slogans to the effect that education is the best defense against AIDS." (60)

"... no one has campaigned against effective AIDS education more than those who style themselves AIDS educators."

"Whoever followed Redfield's advice to 'abandon the risk groups' was in fact abandoning the single best method they had of protecting themselves."... "misemphasis: it detracts attention from where the real problems lies." (70)

The increased funding for AIDS research came at the cost of decreased spending on cancer and heart disease research. The manpower for AIDS research comes mostly from doctors who formerly were doing cancer research. The funding for AIDS research by 1989 was almost as much as for cancer and 50 percent more than for heart disease. Even if the AIDS epidemic kept up with the highest CDC projections, the number of AIDS cases would amount to one fourth of the cancer cases and less than one fourth of those who die each year from heart disease. (327)
"AIDS continues to receive about twenty times as much per death as cancer in federal research and education dollars." (383)

"The Clinton administration, in keeping with a campaign promise, has increased the AIDS budget by a massive 28 percent, even while reducing funds for nearly all other disease-research programs. (383) More people may die because of this misallocation of resources.

Funding for syphilis and other STDs decreased as more money was allocated to the AIDS epidemic. Partly as a result of this:
"In 1987, primary and secondary syphilis rate increased 25 percent, the highest single-year increase since 1960. ... This notwithstanding a previous four-year decline in syphilis rates." (138-139)
Most of the overall increase was due to increased rates of syphilis in black men and women. The rate of syphilis in white men actually declined. The increase in the rate of syphilis in the high-risk group of black IVD abusers increased their risk of getting infected with HIV. The misallocation of funds caused by the AIDS alarmists may have caused more minority people to die from AIDS.
"Other than promoting a misallocation of funds and fear, the greatest problem with the democratization of AIDS is that it conflicts with the message that AIDS is not casually contagious." (157)
This had the result of causing AIDS victims to be feared and hated more than they might otherwise have been.
"In New York City alone, reported attacks on homosexuals jumped from 176 in 1984 to 517 in 1987, with much, if not most, of the increase attributed to AIDS." (212) "... just as the conservative moralists were shocked to find heterosexuals accepting their prescription for fear without accepting their proscription on premarital sex, so too would the homosexuals have to deal with the unexpected fallout from their deceptions." (213)
One good result of the myth was that it created a sense of urgency among the public with regard to finding a cure AIDS, which let to pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to speed up their approval process for new drugs.
"By pretending that the epidemic is widespread in the sense of plague or influenza, we have forgone the use of techniques such as partner tracing, which can have a tremendous effect with hard-to-get diseases like AIDS but are useless with those easily spread." (385)

"... future generations of high-schoolers will listen with incredulity as their teachers relate that a world that decades earlier had put a man on the moon reacted to one of the least transmittable germs ever discovered by, in some cases, wearing space suits to touch AIDS victims and by proclaiming that the world's population could be killed twice over." (324)

Other Panics Caused by Alarmists in the Media and Public Health Bureaucracy

The real dangers of DDT were exaggerated to the point that its use was banned in Sri Lanka, resulting in 10,000 deaths from malaria in that country before they began spraying again. (85)

From 1983 to 1985 the media, notably USA Today, fomented terror in America about the problem of missing children. USA Today declared that "More that 100,000 children are abducted each year." (271) As a result, milk cartons, grocery bags, and post office walls were plastered with pictures of missing children. When the FBI reported the actual number of missing children for 1984, the figure was 57. The mania died out.

In late 1986 the media began running stories about pit bulls attacking people. For a few months the public was alarmed by this threat. Then the press moved on to other topics and the scare ended.

"Ironically, people's fears may be inversely proportional to the actual threats because those threats are so infrequent as to be more spectacular." (272)

Year Read: 1998

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