Hard Questions about AIDS

(from a letter to the AIDS Foundation)

I am bisexual, "poly-intimate", and I consider increasing general sexual freedom to be very important. Therefore, I am very concerned about putting an end to AIDS.

But I also have a lot of concern for the whole of humanity, as well as many smaller communities, somewhat in proportion to their size (which leaves the individual low on my scale of priorities). I'm into the idea that everything's connected to everything else" (in many ways). Therefore privacy, secrecy and "It's none of your business" are in conflict with the "C words", community, consciousness, communication and cooperation. (Of course equality of privacy is really the key issue here.)

My views may seem "Heartless. This term seems to usually mean putting the needs of the community over the needs of the individual, or statistics of much larger numbers of individuals who can be expected to die of AIDS, as opposed to relatively few who are presently identifiable. A recent letter emphasized the words "public health crisis that threatens to cripple our nation's health care system and our sense of decency and compassion for those in need". I might restate that as "public health crisis (among others) that, together with our (distorted) sense of decency and compassion for those in need, threatens to cripple our health care system".

Concerning numbers of people dying of AIDS, how do the numbers compare to other specific causes of death in the country and the world? AIdS certainly isn't the ideal way to reduce the population. But assuming it continues unchecked, when is AIDS likely to, along with other causes, begin to cancel population growth? We might be better off to hope for evolution of immunity to AIDS than to finding a cure.

At present, dealing with AIDS means education concerning condoms, nonoxynol-9, monogamy and/or celibacy and needle hygiene, caring for the dying, remembering the dead, and looking for a vaccine. But monogamy (which I can guarantee only for myself) isn't totally safe. If we don't find a vaccine, condoms and celibacy will work even better than AIDS for controlling the population. Eventually we'll have to face this. The time will come when more drastic action must be taken. Let it be done sooner rather than later, and by those with real compassion rather than with hate and fear.

"Anyone can contract or transmit AIDS."

I don't want to be a nit picker but this statement is almost meaningless. "Can" is the operative word, the ultimate all-inclusive probability statement that can't be challenged. It says nothing about relative risks of different behaviors.

"In some African countries, more than 80% of AIDS cases have been among heterosexuals."

As they say, figures don't lie, but liars will find a way. It's quite possible that in these countries, there are very few out of the closet gays. In a population with a high percent of "straights", wouldn't you expect most AIDS to be among "straights"?

"AIDS is transmitted only through sexual activities and by blood to blood contact."

That's not the same as "There is no evidence that saliva transmit the AIDS virus." The truth is that we don't know for sure and all kinds of contact have a certain risk, to be balanced against other risks in life. But how can we do this if we aren't given the full facts (and for that matter aren't even taught how to think in terms of relative probabilities)?

When you're trying to sell a specific line, your message is often less believable, at least to me.

Certainly the AIDS Foundation is doing good things in terms of education, influencing politicians and caring of the dying, but I doubt that's enough.

Send me your thoughts.
Dan Robinson, danrob@efn.org, Eugene, Oregon
My home page: http://www.efn.org/~danrob/