The government wants to keep Americans believing that gay and bi men are still causing most of the HIV problems
As our new President takes office, I will still be feeling that chill up my spine I felt when I saw the website for the "HIV Stops With Me" ad series (www.hivstopswithme.org). Aired in San Francisco, the TV ads derive from what the CDC calls "alarming" statistics showing a rise in unprotected sex among gay and bisexual men. The ads were funded by the CDC and the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
These ads don't just "target" local men in the PR sense -- they put these men square in the sniper crosshairs. The message couldn't be clearer, with a funereal black page and the logline jumping out in flaming red -- "HIV+ gay and bisexual men have the power to stop the epidemic."
Really? HIV-positive gay and bi men have that power as AIDS is declared a global security threat by the UN, and a national security threat by Washington? As the media declare that "millions are dying all over the world," and these estimated millions are said to be mainly heterosexual women and children? So what's behind these ads?
Earlier this year, U.S. AIDS policy underwent a paradigm shift. The CIA and NSA (National Security Agency) were given oversight over AIDS. The nation's public-health system is now virtually on a wartime footing -- meaning that uniforms, not white labcoats, are in charge. CDC's website has a bioterrorist-alert page, equating AIDS with anthrax attacks by Iraq. Noting this shift, South African President Thabo Mbeki voiced concerns over CIA interference in his country's AIDS controversy. AIDS apologists snidely dismissed Mbeki as paranoid. Doubtless Mbeki reviewed the CIA's long history of covertly involving U.S. troops in other countries' affairs -- notably Vietnam, Guatemala, Colombia -- and felt a chill of his own.
In short, epidemic disease is now the excuse for U.S. and UN interference in certain countries' political affairs. Behind its family-friendly facade, the CDC is a major player in international public-health wars. When Ebola virus broke out in Uganda recently, the CDC was one of the first on the scene. If we translate the CDC/SFDPH ads into political English, the message is: HIV-positive gay and bi men are responsible for the AIDS epidemic -- because those who "cause" it are the ones who can "stop" it. These men could be held accountable by military intelligence for any real (or perceived) failure to act as the government demands.
As an old CIA watcher, dating from the sixties and seventies when I helped cover cold-war politics as a Reader's Digest editor, I suspect these ads are what spooks call "disinformation" (government-speak for propaganda). The federal government is retooling the 1980s "gay plague" for use in today's domestic political arena. For maximum credibility it launches the reinvention in gaydom's flagship city, San Francisco. Yet, internationally, the U.S. carefully refrains from talk of gays ending AIDS, and pours billions into fighting an AIDS that is "everybody's disease." Hence a hypocrisy, as Washington speaks with a forked tongue about AIDS.
It won't be the first time that homosexuals are deemed "security risks." In the 1950s, the McCarthy hearings trained their crosshairs on gay men in sensitive government jobs.
And this is not the first time I've mentioned the shell games that public-health officials play with some statistics while trying to justify their demands for funding and public support. The CDC has taken notice of my comments, and sent a letter to A&U; defending their crosshairing of gay and bi men (see this issue's Mailbox). Ronald O. Valdiserri, deputy director of CDC's national Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, insists that "men who have sex with men (MSM) still represent the single largest share of new infections, estimated to account for more than 40 percent of all new HIV infections." In his September 15 letter, Dr. Valdiserri adds that heterosexual men and women account for thirty-three percent of new infections. I can't help wondering about the sexual orientation of the remaining plus or minus twenty-seven percent. Is it lesbian and bi women? No -- according to the CDC, the mystery remainder is injection drug users, which is not a sexual orientation. Here we see the fallacy of "risk group" statistics -- they don't always add up. And they're just estimates, because -- as the CDC admits in its own fine print -- the counters don't always know the risk in reported cases.
A recent AP story quotes different CDC statistics: "Blacks and Hispanics accounted for nearly 70 percent of new HIV infections from July 1999 to June of this year, a striking change in what was once known as a disease of gay white men.
The groups hardest to reach in prevention campaigns -- high school dropouts, former inmates and the homeless -- are disproportionately black and Hispanic." So with bigger groups that are said to need targeting, why is the CDC pumping millions into a disinformation campaign aimed at gay and bi men in a single city?
In my opinion, the federal government wants to make covert use of homophobia, even as the CDC pays lip service to the idea that homophobia is not a good thing. The government wants to keep Americans believing that gay and bi men are still causing most of the HIV problems. This way, Americans are more likely to accept stringent new public-health surveillance and controls, in the interests of fighting the gay/bi "threat." When the security crackdown comes, most citizens will be less likely to sympathize with gay and bi men. In fact, it'll be dangerous to sympathize -- you might be listed as a "security risk" yourself. Civilians who get in the way of a war machine are always viewed as expendable.
Am I being paranoid? The record bears me out. Past "security" scares about unpopular groups -- notably Japanese-Americans and German-Americans -- resulted in human-rights abuses that most Americans were happy to overlook. Americans are already accepting greater infringements on their personal liberties -- wiretapping, police searches without warrants, etc. -- in the interests of "fighting crime and terrorism." National public-health "security" will be achieved through coercive new state laws already appearing on the books. More about that in "a future" Left Field column.
Valdiserri complains that "some members of the gay community remain skeptical of government information." Well, some of us can add and subtract. The accuracy of government AIDS statistics is under growing fire in the gay world, as the Bay Area Reporter and rethinking-AIDS groups analyze statistics on which the SFDPH based their case. The Bay Area Reporter cites what it calls "continuous inaccuracies regarding HIV infection rates," and actually forced the SFDPH to backtrack on some figures.
Indeed, any U.S. citizens who have an HIV-positive test on record, whatever their sexual orientation, need to ponder the deadly direction of this ad campaign. And what of free speech for those who question this new AIDS policy?
Will we be viewed as "security risks" too? Yes, that's definitely a chill I'll be feeling, as the new President takes office. Patricia Nell Warren, author of The Front Runner, writes provocative commentary for many gay and mainstream publication. Her editorials are archived at wildcatpress.com.
She can be reached at:[email protected]
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