About 20 AIDS activists blocked traffic in D.C. last week in a demonstration to demand more HIV/AIDS spending from the Obama Administration. Health officials in the District say that 1-in-20 residents have HIV or AIDS, but the activists claim the number is more like 1-in-5 in the Anacostia area east of the Anacostia River.1 The activists were part of a national AIDS strategy to get the $50 billion that President Obama campaigned on, and eight of the activists met with the Director for National AIDS Policy in the White House to plead their case.
The demonstrators carried a gray adult coffin and a smaller child’s coffin down Pennsylvania Avenue protected by a police convoy that outnumbered the activists. The demonstrators claimed that D.C. has a “severe epidemic,” citing figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations AIDS Office indicating that three percent of District residents are infected with HIV/AIDS. The demonstrators promised to return in 40 days if their demands were not met, and one protestor lay in the street to “show that he was as important as a pothole.”2
Now let’s get some facts: The activists are demanding that the government increase funding for HIV/AIDS. There is already an exorbitant amount spent ($14.7 billion in FY 2002 by the federal government on HIV/AIDS-related medical care, research and prevention plus another $3.5 billion which was the States’ share under Medicaid) 3 to fight an epidemic that is limited – despite a lot of false propaganda to the contrary – almost exclusively to a relatively small group of people who engage in specific behaviors (i.e., various intimate sexual practices or the sharing of needles to inject illegal drugs) or those who are sexually intimate with people who already have HIV/AIDS. With only a few exceptions, the great majority (98-99 percent of adults) of the so-called “victims” of this terrible scourge became infected with the disease by voluntarily participating in hazardous sexual behavior known to put them at risk of infection. 4
They chose knowingly to engage in high-risk behaviors, but still claim the status of “victims,” and they view it to be the government’s responsibility to take action to “fix” the consequences of their actions. At the same time, they insist that the government has no right to:
Identify the specific behavior leading to the epidemic; Give notices of infection to protect those who might consider private encounters with an infected person; Honestly report who is and who is not at risk for HIV/AIDS; Promote sexual abstinence until marriage and fidelity afterward; Encourage nations who receive millions of U.S. dollars for combat of HIV/AIDS to promote sexual abstinence until marriage and fidelity afterward;
The CDC estimates that there were 1.1 million persons with HIV/AIDS in the United States in 2006. Out of its budget of $1.8 billion for combating infectious diseases in 2007, $696 million was devoted to HIV/AIDS prevention compared with $301 million spent on cancer prevention and control5 – note that cancer kills around 40 times as many persons as HIV/AIDS does every year but receives half the funding. 6 World health officials tell us that more than 60 million people have been infected with HIV and another 14,000 are infected every day7. This pandemic is called the “greatest public health crisis facing the world since the 13th century,” 8 yet the only politically correct response is to say that everyone should get tested. Everyone? We should go to the unnecessary expense of testing even the population that does not engage in risky promiscuous sexual behaviors? Recently, a young friend who is about to get married went for her yearly physical. Without her knowledge or permission, her physician tested her for HIV/AIDS and expected her to pay for the test even though she has never used drugs or engaged in intimate sexual behavior.
Other than testing, our only other official policy is to appropriate more research dollars to develop a preventive HIV vaccine and more funds from tax revenues to purchase expensive medications that do not cure, but merely slow the disease’s deadly progression.
Our investment in the HIV vaccine in 2002 was estimated at close to $700 million. 9 We spent the money to provide extensive organizing and advocacy to “warn” governments about the epidemic and to encourage them to “take action.” (But that action must not impinge on anyone’s privacy, until of course the disease has so ravaged the person that it is obvious to all.) What do we have to show for our “investment”? We’re told that there is a shortfall of “at least $10 billion” in AIDS funding worldwide. 10 We’re told that “more than 6 million individuals living with AIDS do not have access to lifesaving drugs” and millions more cannot be reached with “preventive messages.” 11 And what would those preventive messages be?
Ironically, while the AIDS activists are urging even more government spending, a leading homosexual newspaper gives credit where it is due by admitting to “the reality that religious-affiliated groups provide a large portion of overall health services in many countries.” 12 But, that newspaper warns, they don’t want “American fundamentalists” promoting “their dogma” overseas. AIDS activists are fanatical in their determination to set the terms for how the government handles the epidemic. They demand that government funds be expended on “underserved high-risk populations, especially men who have sex with men,” and all the while they are adamant that the government not bankroll what the activists label as “ideologically-driven misinformation.” We must, at all cost, avoid telling “men who have sex with men” that it is “wrong” to engage in high-risk behaviors; all that the AIDS activists will agree to is that we tell them to use a condom to lower the risk.
When AIDS patients are dying, they are grateful that the Christian volunteers, missionaries, nurses, and doctors will be there treating them with respect, wiping their brows, bathing their ravaged bodies, praying for their survival, and giving them comfort as they die. However, AIDS activists are rabidly opposed to any type of interventions that might interfere in any way with their “right” to engage – unimpeded by any private or public disapproval, censure or restrictions – in risky sexual behaviors that would expose them to the HIV/AIDS virus and serve to spread the epidemic throughout the circle of their intimate acquaintances.
“AIDS Activits Demand More Funding for Research, Support,” NewsChannel 8, March 11, 2009. “AIDS Protest at City Hall Draws more Police than Demonstrators,” The Washington Post, March 20, 2009, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dc/2009/03/aids_protest_draws_more_police.html (accessed March 21, 2009). Committee on the Public Financing and Delivery of HIV Care, Public Financing and Delivery of HIV/AIDS Care: Securing the Legacy of Ryan White, (Washington, D.C., 2005), 73-75, http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10995&page=73 (accessed March 21, 2009). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Estimated numbers of persons living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2006, by race/ethnicity, sex, and transmission category-33 states with confidential name-based HIV infection reporting,” HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, Volume 18, Table 9, http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/reports/2006report/pdf/table9.pdf (accessed March 21, 2009). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Financial Management Office, “Budge Information: Budget Tables, 2009” http://www.cdc.gov/fmo/topic/Budget%20Information/index.html (accessed March 21, 2009). Melonie P. Heron et al, “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2006,” National Vital Statistics Reports, 56, no. 16, (June 11, 2008), 17 Table 2, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr56/nvsr56_16.pdf (accessed March 21, 2009). UNAIDS/WHO (2003), AIDS Epidemic Update 2003, Geneva. Ibid. Abigail Bing, et.al., “Global Investment and Expenditures on Preventive HIV Vaccines: Methods and Results for 2002,” Policy Working Paper, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative Policy Department, http://www.iavi.org/file.cfm?fid=405 Chinua Akukwe, Worldpress.org contributing editor, “Strengthening the Global Alliance on AIDS: Five Strategic Steps” World Press. March 9, 2009. http://www.worldpress.org/print_article.cfm?article_id=3483&dont=yes . Ibid. Richard J. Rosendall, “Follow the Money,” Bay Windows: New England’s Largest GLBT Newspaper, March 19, 2009. http://www.baywindows.com/index.php?ch=columnists&sc=holding_the_center&id=88480