Little Red Ribbon-Hood: August 2008: Archives

August 3, 2008

CDC Report - U.S. HIV Infections 40% Higher Than Estimates genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood

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A new report suggests that the number of annual HIV infections in the U.S. has been drastically underestimated...or underreported. While this is a significant revelation, I'm of the opinion that the back story may be far more telling. Let's look at the new data first.

From The International Herald Tribune:

The United States has significantly underreported the number of new HIV infections occurring nationally each year, with a study showing that the annual infection rate is 40 percent higher than previously estimated.

The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and released here on Saturday, found that 56,300 people became newly infected with HIV in 2006, compared with the 40,000 figure the agency has cited as the recent annual incidence of the disease.

The findings confirm that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has its greatest effect among gay and bisexual men of all races (53 percent of all new infections) and among African-American men and women.

The new figures are likely to strongly influence a number of decisions about efforts to control the epidemic, said the disease centers' director, Dr. Julie Gerberding, and other AIDS experts.

Timely information about trends in HIV transmission, they said, is essential for planning and evaluating prevention efforts and the money spent on them.

Dr. Kevin Fenton, who directs HIV- prevention efforts at the agency, said, "CDC's new incidence estimates reveal that the HIV epidemic is and has been worse than previously known." A separate historical trend analysis published as part of the study suggests that the number of new infections was probably never as low as the earlier estimate of 40,000 and that it has been roughly stable over all since the late 1990s.

A number of leading health experts have criticized the agency for not releasing the information earlier. On Nov. 21, CDC officials told AIDS advocacy groups and reporters that the data would be released soon. In an editorial on June 21, The Lancet, an internationally prestigious journal published in London, severely criticized the disease centers for failing to release the information and said, "U.S. efforts to prevent HIV have failed dismally."

Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, was critical of the administration. "HIV prevention has been underfunded and too often hindered by politics and ideology," Waxman said in a statement released Saturday. He said the administration had reduced domestic spending against HIV. "Since fiscal year 2002, when adjusted for inflation, CDC's prevention budget has actually shrunk by 19 percent. The president has recently requested decreases in funding for HIV prevention at CDC." Waxman said he would soon hold hearings on why health officials had "less and less money to actually get these programs to the communities that need them."

Kevin Robert Frost, chief executive of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, said the AIDS conference would exert increasing pressure on "governments to focus on reaching the marginalized populations that are most affected by the epidemic," like gay men, injecting drug users and African-Americans.

Yes, the numbers are troubling...but I find myself struggling to determine the source of my discomfort. I suspect my anxiety is driven by the recent response to the World Health Organization's recent announcement it had overestimated the threat HIV posed to the heterosexual population (outside of Africa). When the WHO report was released back in June, a collective "I told you so" came from many groups generally aligned with the views of the religious right.

The general tone of the response to the report suggested to me that there had been a percolating animosity towards those who may have used inflated numbers to push for more HIV funding. Inherent in many of the articles I read was a belief that the prior warnings were a deliberate effort to deceive. Even more evident was the inference that the heterosexual world had been duped into fearing a pandemic in order to increase AIDS funding and remove the stigma that HIV is a gay disease.

Here's a couple of the responses from those on the right.

From Life Site News:

The HIV/AIDS director confirmed that male homosexuals are most at risk for AIDS, and that in many places rates of infection amongst male homosexuals are increasing, not declining.

"We face a bit of a crisis [in this area]. In the industrialised world transmission of HIV among men who have sex with men is not declining and in some places has increased," stated de Cock [head of the WHO's department of HIV/AIDS].

"In the developing world, it has been neglected. We have only recently started looking for it and when we look, we find it. And when we examine HIV rates we find they are high.

However, promoting the strategy of universal prevention is also recognized as having been one of the most successful ways that homosexual activists capitalised on the impending AIDS pandemic to make the general public sympathetic to their cause and to launch them from political obscurity to their current elevated status. Although the AIDS "pandemic" among heterosexuals may now have disappeared, its political usefulness has also since disappeared, with homosexual activists now aggressively changing marriage laws worldwide.

From The Family Research Council (in response to the Independent's article):

In the article, however, one line stood out in particular:

"Any revision of the threat was liable to be seized on by those who rejected HIV as the cause of the disease, or who used the disease as a weapon to stigmatise high risk groups, he said."

In other words: We couldn't tell the truth, because it might have made people think there is something wrong with homosexuality, prostitution, and drug use.

I think the message delivered in these two examples is evident. HIV was and is a gay disease and the gay community and their allies simply sough to capitalize on it. Yea right, we decided it was worth losing thousands of our friends and family to promote the gay agenda. In fact, our militant strategic plan was so elaborate that we envisioned HIV as the means to achieve gay marriage (if anyone was left to marry).

So here's where my discomfort centers. Many want to hail George Bush's PEPFAR initiative (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) as evidence of his commitment to compassionate conservatism. While I commend the dramatic increase in funding for those suffering from HIV in the third world, I can't help but notice the decrease in funding for HIV prevention here in the United States.

Consider the fact that the president has attached strings to the PEPFAR funding he's previously provided...stipulating that a third of the money needed to focus on abstinence...and one begins to see the full picture. If the moral judgment behind the seeming disinterest in U.S. funding isn't obvious, I'm happy to extrapolate and elaborate.

The president and his religious followers don't condone homosexual sex...at all. As such, when they promote abstinence in Africa, they do so in the context of suggesting one should forego sexual contact until marriage...and only within a marriage. Hence, promoting abstinence to the gay community is a tacit acceptance of their relationships and a seeming endorsement of their validity. The alternative...an aggressive campaign to foster safer sex and condom usage is even more untenable. Doing so suggests that homosexual sex is acceptable, that contraception is allowed, and that sex without the intention of procreation is a valid pursuit.

Let me be clear. I can't fully know George Bush's feelings and intentions. Regardless, I can compare and contrast his words and his directives in order to draw some plausible conclusions...which brings me to Jesse Helms.

When Jesse Helms died, there were those (Libby Dole in particular) who wanted to honor the bigoted former Senator by naming the expansion of the PEPFAR initiative after him. While Helms admitted his error with regards to AIDS funding in the third world, he never once apologized to the gay community for stifling funding here in the states...and he never retracted any of his vile anti-gay comments. Therefore, I think it's safe to say that he distinguished between those with AIDS in the third world and homosexuals with AIDS here in America. While George Bush has been careful to avoid denigrating homosexuals, his actions with regards to HIV funding mirror Helms' overt expressions of hostility.

George Bush's actions may have nothing to do with bigotry and everything to do with political expediency. As one looks back on the AIDS years, this pattern of politicization is the very problem WHO and others were attempting to address. It's also a steep price for the gay community to pay for the political aspirations of a few men (don't forget how long it took Ronald Reagan to even utter the word AIDS). So what can we conclude about those who lambasted WHO and all those who were undoubtedly cognizant of the prickly political terrain?

Well, from this gay man's purview, we can conclude that there are a number of Americans who still believe that AIDS is a gay disease and that it is little more than God's retribution for acts of immorality. Even more disturbing, there are those who would be happy to further cut AIDS funding in the U.S. while sitting on their hands and watching the gay community wither away under the ravages of AIDS. Not only has this been the case in the minds of millions of Americans; it has led politicians to pander to them while sacrificing members of the gay community.

I don't know if the CDC's underestimating of HIV infections was an honest error or a calculated omission carried out by political appointees mindful of the mindset of their benefactor. The fact that we've witnessed questionable practices by other Bush appointees with regards to the implementation of health policy offers little solace.

When I hear George Bush scold Democrats and Barack Obama for opposing offshore oil exploration and the expansion of nuclear energy, I can't help but notice his willingness to unabashedly promote the kind of interests he favors. When I've heard countless individuals suggest that it's all about the oil (money) for George Bush and his minions, I've been hesitant to concur.

When I recall that he's opposed to embryonic stem cell research, to comprehensive sex education and condoms to prevent teen pregnancies and the transmission of STD's, and drug his feet on the expansion of funding for HIV prevention in the U.S., I find myself wondering if the priorities of the current iteration of Christianity have anything to do with compassion. I have my doubts.

Tagged as: AIDS, CDC, Elizabeth Dole, FRC, George W. Bush, HIV, Jesse Helms, LGBT, PEPFAR, Religion, Religious Right, Same-Sex Marriage, United Nations, World Health Organization

Daniel DiRito | August 3, 2008 | 9:12 AM | link | Comments (0)
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