Decades ago, the causes of HIV and AIDS were a mystery–and one that, because the disease was thought to only kill gay men and drug users, many researchers, politicians, and members of the public didn’t feel like solving. Public perception and research have come a long way since then, but some individuals, like Christian extremist Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association (AFA), are still set on preaching a dangerous, hateful message: that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, that it’s a scam, and that it’s not something that straight people need to worry about. Do not listen to these false prophets.
Speaking on his radio show, Focal Point, this week, Fischer claimed that HIV was created as a way to get money for research of AIDS, which gay people get, he says, from drug use. From the show:
The reason that HIV was invented as the cause of AIDS is it was a way to get research money…If AIDS is caused by behavior, then there’s no money in that because you just tell people, ‘Hey, stop doing the behavior.’ But..so that’s why they have to find some bug that they can blame it on. ‘We gotta kill this thing, we need billions of dollars of research…’ so we’re chasing after something…that even if we got it, it wouldn’t do a single, solitary thing.
The AFA may have an innocent-sounding name, but the group’s dispersal of extreme (and extremely unfounded) anti-gay information has led some policy centers to classify them as a hate group, citing that their potentially influential message (that AIDS something that only gay people get, that HIV is made up to drum up research dollars, that both HIV and AIDS aren’t transmitted sexually) could potentially lead to the deaths of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.
Fischer was joined on the show by a known AIDS-denier (who holds a PhD), Dr. Peter Duesberg, who has been widely condemned in the medical community for distributing dissenting information about AIDS. At one point, Duesberg spent time in South Africa, a country torn apart by the disease–and by misinformation about who can get the disease and how. Its then-President was also an AIDS denier, and the two of them have been cited as possibly being responsible for the death of as many as 330,000 individuals, and the infection of thousands more, including infants. And yet, because he holds a doctorate, his damaging message continues to be listened to.
Duesberg’s conclusion in the interview? That “about half” of the people who have AIDS are intravenous drug users (which isn’t true), while the other half are promiscuous gay men (not, he clarifies, your “all-American homosexual next door”) who have “hundreds [or] thousands of partners” and who take “tons of drugs.” And while homosexual men are still one of the biggest risk groups for full-blown AIDS, the perception that all gay men living with AIDS are “promiscuous” is just ignorant and hurtful. Additionally, both of these men might be surprised to find themselves in the company of the highest-rising risk group: heterosexual baby boomers. In 2011, older straight people were the fastest-growing HIV-positive demographic.
That individuals in the United States who hear this message may believe it, and as a result, stop taking simple measures to protect themselves (in many cases, a condom is truly all it takes) is just the beginning of what is so concerning. There are also much more deep-seating notions of intolerance and hate. This line of thinking is a one-two punch of harmful pseudo-science and extreme bigotry. It is rooted in anti-gay sentiments that the LGBT and ally community have been battling against for decades, but is backed by roundly-criticized “medical” science–which makes it doubly dangerous. And it has widespread consequences–many in Africa are still clinging to the beliefs espoused by Duesberg, and, as a result, continue to spread the disease.
It’s time to stop conflating medicine with morals in this way, and end the politicizing of diseases like AIDS. Maliciously condemning the victims of a disease that impacts everyone and spreading hateful information that could potentially lead to the deaths of thousands gets us nowhere.
You can watch the video here:
Images: Thinkstock and Focal Point