The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, February 17, 2006

Favorite Conspiracies…AIDS

Favorite Conspiracies…AIDS

Now this one will ruffle some feathers.  Part of it is pure Lefty conspiracy, and that should get interesting reactions.  Part of it is a fear that something truly, truly vile happened in the world.  Some of this I’m pretty certain of.  The “vile” part is pretty tenuous paranoia on my part.  But again, I can’t get it out of my mind completely…

First, the “Lefty” AIDS conspiracy…

About Thirteen years ago, Scientific American published an article on the scourge of AIDS.  I eagerly devoured it, looking for statistics that had been missing from every other story on the subject I had ever seen.  There was one particular thing that no one seemed to address. You see, when someone talks about a disease being “heterosexual” the usual assumption is that men give it to women, and women give it back to men with approximately equal facility.

But there in SA, in black and white, were the numbers I was looking for.  As I suspected, the percentage of men who were said to have contracted AIDS from women was about 5% of the number of women who said they had contracted AIDS from men.  This number is so small that it fits comfortably within the number of men who won’t come out of the closet, or admit to using needle drugs.

In other words, women are not good at passing AIDS to their partners.  To put it another way, you primarily get AIDS by being penetrated: with a penis, with a needle, with unsterilized tribal scarring implements.

For years I wrestled with this one, waiting to hear something, anything, that would contradict this.  And to this date, I haven’t heard a single man who CLAIMS to have gotten AIDS from a woman through intercourse, and can give her name.  I’ve heard dozens of women name the men they got it from.  With guys, it’s always “some hoochie.”  Really? 

So I began to suspect that something was going on.  That when AIDS first burst on the scene in the 70’s, the gay community was hit like a bomb.  According to male gay friends I had at the  time, bathhouse sex was like screwing as an extreme sport.  MAN they were having fun, and frankly, I was jealous (as I suspect a lot of other heterosexual men were.  There has never really been an equivalent to the baths.  Ask the people who tried and failed to establish swinging clubs.  The problem is, and has always been, getting women in the door.  The number of women interested in anonymous sex is a fraction of the number of men who’ll boff anything that moves.  Guys are just like that.  Not all of us—but enough.  Don’t believe me?  Pick up a half-dozen pieces of erotica written by and for gay men.  And then a half-dozen pieces written by and for gay women.  Chose them at random.  Count the number of sexual encounters and partners per page.  Add it up and do the math.  I rest my case.)
The conclusion I came to was that members of the medical establishment and the news media certainly knew the truth: that the primary way to catch AIDS is to be the “receiving” partner of vaginal or anal intercourse, with anal being considerably riskier.  But they also knew that if this information was ever stated honestly and directly, several things would happen:

Men would feel safe, and be more difficult to convince to use condoms.
There are many who control the public pursestrings who would say: “let the faggots die.” 

So they  lied. And the lie has continued almost to this day.  Only in the last five years have I really heard much of anything about the specific behaviors that are highest risk, and the groups at highest risk, and that heterosexual, non-drug using males are at very little risk indeed.

Don’t believe me that women are terrible at transmitting AIDS?  Look at the difference in AIDS rates in the male as opposed to female gay community.

On several occassions, I've had an opportunity to have quiet conversations with people seriously involved with the AIDS awareness movement.  And several of thenadmitted to me, privately, that the risk to men was deliberately overstated.  Does  this mean it's true?  No, but it's worth thinking about.  And only now, after so many years, do I feel comfortable talking about this publicly.
Again, I’m sure we all know men who supposedly caught AIDS from women.  And it HAS to be true in some cases—I’m just guessing that women are 10-20 times more vulnerable.  If that weren’t true, if women really gave it to men as easily as men give it to women, we’d be knee-deep in the dead.

Don’t go by anecdotal evidence.  Look for the statistics.  Compare them.  And you’ll see why I have my suspicions.
But what, you will say, of the Third World?  What of AIDS in Africa?  There, certainly, it is spreading both ways through heterosexual intercourse.  Well, maybe.  But I have my suspicions.  To run through them in no particular order, we’d have:
A different strain of HIV? 
Tribal scarring with unsterilized implements, and lack of autoclave to sterilize needles used in inoculations?
Homosexual behavior that is so culturally taboo that men have even greater motivation to lie about it than they do in America?
Overreporting of AIDS—in other words, starvation, parasitism, other wasting disease that attacks the immune system being reported as AIDS.  There is an interesting gap between rates of AIDS  and rates of HIV infection.
The same kind of well-intended scare tactics that happened in America for the last twenty years, writ large on the International scale.  Doctors who know that the starvation in Africa will be less seriously considered by the West if we’re not afraid it’s gonna come and get us.
Pre-existing disease patterns like open sores and compromised immune systems that make men more vulnerable than they are in the west.
Other cultural factors of which I’m not aware

And the biggest, nastiest one of all: it’s not accidental.  I’ll address that one, my favorite, ugliest conspiracy theory of all.  Again, I DON’T THINK ITS TRUE.  I’m just unable to put it completely out of my head, for reasons that are not as wild-eyed as you might think.

More on this ugly subject, quite soon.


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