- The Washington Times - Monday, February 21, 2005

Discrimination is the great killer of our times. You could ask the bungee jumpers who have died of exceedingly brief but really severe headaches.

Thoughtless manufacturers obviously made the rope too long. Or maybe it was the discriminating bridge builders who could have saved these lives if they had built the bridge only a few feet higher.

Discrimination of a similar sort continues to kill homosexual men. We have the word of an AIDS support group in New York City, which is upset that municipal health officials in Manhattan went public with their fears of a new strain of HIV that appears to be impervious to drugs, and kills quickly.

The announcement has frightened many homosexual men, who may now be too scared to indulge in “unprotected” anal sex and powerful illegal drugs they say enhance their deadly sexual practices.

The link between the killer strain and the use of crystal methamphetamine, or “crystal meth,” is unproven, says the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, and the city ignored the “underlying issues” behind the spread of the virus, like discrimination, poor housing and unemployment. (Personal irresponsibility has nothing to do with it.)

“Rather than increasing awareness of the risks of unsafe sex and crystal use, the Health Department risks stigmatizing gay men as crazed drug addicts carelessly or wantonly spreading the killer bug. In this case, the Health Department seems to offer little to the understanding of the root causes and potential solutions to drug use apart from the discredited strategy of Nancy Reagan, ‘just say no.’”

You might think that engaging in unprotected anal sex (the actual root cause of HIV infection) would be just as lethal with a gay CEO in a million-dollar mansion as with a bum in a hovel. But there’s very little logic in politically correct discussions of AIDS.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, was accused by “gay activists” of trying to frighten homosexual men into practicing safe sex, so called, and naturally he soon started the usual round of serial denials and apologies. Anywhere but in America, circa 2005, a public-health officer trying to protect the citizens against deadly disease would be regarded as merely doing his job.

Another gay caballero, the director of the ironically named Project Inform, accuses Dr. Frieden of being needlessly alarmist by actually informing. “By pushing this out early,” he says, “the public health department set off panic nationwide, before the scientific community had had a chance to see the scientific data.” The doctor is trying to save lives by preventing the spread of disease; the gay activists appear to be trying to protect easy access to sexual promiscuity, no matter what the cost. The homosexual man who fell victim to the killer HIV is said to have had unprotected sex with 400 men, his appetite and stamina fueled by crystal meth.

Some researchers and other health professionals do, in fact, argue that Dr. Frieden might be hasty in drawing sweeping conclusions from one case in New York (and another case suspected in San Diego). Certain gay caballeros have scolded the New York Times for its extensive coverage, though you can’t blame a newspaper for knowing its audience.

Medical considerations are overwhelmed, as they always are in discussions of AIDS, by hysteria and politics. The lavender lobby worries that the controversy will set up homosexual men as the guilty parties in endowing the community with the disease. That’s because after all these years AIDS remains a disease almost altogether of homosexuals and drug addicts and the unfortunate women who hang out with them.

Nevertheless, the campaign continues to make AIDS an equal-opportunity disease. A few researchers now suggest that everyone, even the elderly white-haired Lutheran grannies of rural Minnesota famously harassed by airport security officers as suspected Islamist terrorists, be tested for HIV infection. This would be a criminal waste of resources that could be usefully applied to finding better treatment for the disease. Perhaps we could combine AIDS testing with airport security.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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