As countless news stories, articles and editorials have reminded us, this is the 20th anniversary of the onset of the AIDS epidemic in America. It is a grim anniversary. More than 450,000 Americans, mostly young, are dead. The news story is this: After years of "education" efforts, and billions of dollars in AIDS-related government programs, the infection rates for new HIV cases are rising back to their peak 1980s levels. In related news, the new infection rates are highest among blacks and Hispanics, who now make up more than half the dead but who were hardly affected in the first years of the epidemic. In those years, when the numbers of those infected were small, and effective public health methods might have contained its spread to new communities, more than 90 percent of those affected were white homosexuals living in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, intravenous drug users in the same locations and a tiny cohort of hemophiliacs and immigrants from Haiti.
On this anniversary, you will read many stories about the medical research on AIDS which -- however remarkable in itself -- has failed to produce an effective vaccine let alone a cure for the disease. This failure was predicted at the very outset of the epidemic, a fact I wrote about at the time. The leading experts on the epidemic warned then that the only way to stem the tide of the epidemic was through public health methods.
You will read many stories about the heroic efforts of activists in the gay community to lobby the government for more AIDS money, and to care for the sick and dying. None of these efforts should be confused with public health methods for combating epidemics, however. What you will not read is a single story about those methods, or how epidemics were combated -- often successfully -- for a hundred years prior to 1981, before gay activists inserted themselves into the public health system. What you will not read is how the proven public health methods were opposed by AIDS activists, and how public health officials surrendered to the activists' demands for veto control over which methods were acceptable and which were not, or how they then colluded in subverting the system that had proved so successful in the past.
What you will not read is any evaluation of the AIDS campaigns -- mainly "education" -- that the activists demanded in place of the proven methods. Yet the harrowing figures released on this anniversary show these politically correct billion-dollar campaigns have failed miserably to contain the epidemic or to prevent it from spreading into other communities, particularly the African-American and Hispanic communities.
As a result of the obstruction of testing, reporting, contact tracing and infection-site closing by gay leaders and their allies in the Democratic Parties that controlled these cities, public health officials could not warn communities in the path of the epidemic -- in fact, were not able to find out what that path was. As a result by the end of the first decade of AIDS, Hispanics were 14 percent of those infected and blacks were 26 percent. A decade later Hispanics were 19 percent of those infected and blacks an astounding 45 percent.
What you will not read in the 20th anniversary coverage of the epidemic is any story on the fact that today -- as we move into the third decade of the epidemic with infection rates rising and the death toll climbing -- the subverted public health system still does not require reporting of individual cases, testing of at-risk communities, contact tracing to warn individuals of possible infection or the closing of sex clubs and other potential sites of infection.
Thus, in addition to being a grim anniversary from the vantage of the dead and those who loved them, this is a disheartening occasion for those of us who have paid attention to the course of this contagion and have watched in disbelief the criminally ineffectual efforts that have been deployed in the name of political correctness to contain it. This anniversary also makes clear that, as a nation, we have learned nothing from the follies of the past, and are headed into the next decade still prisoners of orchestrated ignorance and still relying on the remedies that failed.
The following paragraph is taken from a lead story in the health section of the Los Angeles Times, the paper of record in one of the metropolitan centers of the epidemic from the beginning. It was written by "health writer" Linda Marsa, and rehashes the familiar party line on AIDS, conveying "information" that is brazenly ignorant and entirely false. In perfect self-parody, the article is titled "A Legacy of Change."
It was a sheer accident that AIDS first struck a relatively cohesive group: young homosexuals in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, many of whom had honed their organizational and political skills during the gay rights movements of the 1970s. This was extraordinary: Terminal illnesses don't discriminate, hitting rich and poor alike without regard to ethnicity, geography or sexual orientation.
In fact, the AIDS epidemic is more accurately described as a product of the gay rights movement of the 1970s, inevitably concentrated in the very centers of gay life in America -- San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles -- and impossible to conceive without the presence and agitations of the radical gay movements that directly preceded it. It was the gay radical left that defined promiscuous anal sex with strangers in public urban environments -- the primary cause of the AIDS epidemic -- as "gay liberation."
It was the gay movement that thought nothing of the massive epidemics of amoebiasis, rectal gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis B that swept through gay communities in the decades preceding AIDS, producing astronomical infection rates and depleted immune systems in the process. It was the gay movement that regarded any intrusion by public health authorities to close the public sexual gymnasiums called "bathhouses" as a "threat" to gay liberation (both before and after the onset of AIDS).
It was the gay left that successfully prevented reporting, testing, contact tracing and other public health methods that had been proven effective in combating epidemic diseases in the past. It was the gay left that blocked government prevention programs from targeting at-risk communities (using the same lie as the Times writer -- that "AIDS is an equal opportunity disease"), and it was the gay left that persuaded government officials instead to put all the anti-AIDS eggs in the basket of incredibly expensive and -- as everyone can now see -- completely ineffective "education" campaigns. These campaigns were ineffective because -- out of considerations of political correctness -- they did not specify anal sex as the primary sexual transmission route and were addressed not to those who were specifically at risk, but to "everyone," and thus in effect to no one.
The late Michael Callen, creator of the organization People With AIDS and a pioneer of candor in the midst of these lies, described how he had come to New York as a young man from the sticks and heard gay radicals like the writer Edmund White address audiences in the gay community on the subject of sexual liberation. White told one such audience that Callen was in that "gay men should wear their sexually transmitted diseases like red badges of courage in a war against a sex-negative society." As a young romantic listening to this siren song of the left, Callen's natural response was to think: "Every time I get the clap I'm striking a blow for the sexual revolution." The ever-courageous Camille Paglia pointed out some years ago the obvious truth: "Everyone who preached free love in the Sixties is responsible for AIDS. This idea that it was somehow an accident, a microbe that sort of fell from heaven -- absurd. We must face what we did."
Callen explained exactly what "we" did: "Some of us believed we could change the world through sexual liberation and that we were taking part in a noble experiment. Unfortunately, as a function of a microbiological ... certainty, this level of sexual activity resulted in concurrent epidemics of syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis, amoebiasis, venereal warts and, we discovered too late, other pathogens. Unwittingly, and with the best of revolutionary intentions, a small subset of gay men managed to create disease settings equivalent to those of poor Third World nations in one of the richest nations on earth."
It was a tragedy that those who pioneered in the establishment of gay rights should have been addicted to a radical illusion that they could also change the world -- including the laws of nature. But that is what happened. This left went on to exert a controlling influence on the battle against AIDS, which sabotaged it from the start and has been directly responsible for the killing fields left in its wake. This includes especially the spread of AIDS into the black and Hispanic communities, which could have been prevented if traditional public health methods had been aggressively deployed in the early years. The Hispanic and black communities are for the most part separated in many ways from the gay communities where the epidemic first took hold. If there had been testing and tracing of those infected and focused warnings to those in their path, who knows how many lives could have been saved in the gay community itself, but especially in communities that lay outside the zones of the initial infections.
I offer these observations with no hope that they will have an effect. I have written about this "radical holocaust" (as I described it in "The Politics of Bad Faith"), for nearly the entire duration of this terrible epidemic. Many others have raised their voices as well. Michael Fumento's "The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS," and Gabriel Rotello's "Sexual Ecology" have made the case for ending the political domination of the war against AIDS in a more scientific manner. Early ACT-UP radicals like Larry Kramer, Michelangelo Signorile and Gabriel Rotello have had second thoughts about their former attitudes and have faced what they did. They have organized in an effort to turn the tide. But to no avail.
The chief obstacle to any change in this story is the media itself. AIDS is without question the worst-reported story in the history of American journalism. From the press coverage of this anniversary, no one can take any hope that -- in the absence of a scientific breakthrough -- the next 10 years will show any improvement in the mortality statistics. Without accurate information about this politically induced tragedy, there is no chance that the American public will wake up, and finally decide that enough is enough.