Public Health Ignored as HIV Spreads

A new front has opened up in the decades long Culture War. The LGBTQ activists are now demanding legislation that would ban all forms of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). Those defending the therapists targeted by the legislation have pointed to the positive effects of such efforts. While this is certainly true, a more compelling argument is the absolute failure of the programs approved by the activists to stop or even slow the HIV syndemic among men who have sex with men (MSM).

Every battle requires a well-designed strategy. Among other things a strategy should identify adversaries and target their vulnerabilities. Our adversary in the culture war is not the same-sex attracted (SSA) or the gender identity disordered (GID), but the LGBTQ activists and other sexual revolutionaries. The SSA/GID are the victims of the activists. We can document how the activists lie to the SSA/GID and to the general public by claiming that the SSA/GID are born that way, can’t change, and are just as healthy as the general population. We are the defenders of the truth about the human person. We will not lie to victims. We will not tell a man that hormones and surgery will make him a woman. We will not tell a confused child that he was born gay and should accept it. No one is born gay. Change is possible. Numerous well-designed studies have found that the SSA/GID are not “just as healthy,” but more likely to have psychological disorders, depression, suicidal attempts, substance abuse disorders, to have been victims of childhood sexual abuse and other violence, and to contract a sexually transmitted infections (STI).

Unable to deny the obvious problems in their community, the activists blame homophobia and bigotry. It is true that the SSA/GID experience rejection and shame. They may struggle with feelings of resentment and envy. They feel like outsiders, who have to hide their feelings, feelings they didn’t choose. Therapy, which focuses on underlying conflicts and negative experiences, can help, no matter what the outcome. The activists want to ban all therapy that does not assure a LGBTQ outcome. They don’t care about the client’s needs or desires.

Worst of all however, the activists are responsible for the continuing HIV epidemic. From 1981 until 2012, 311,087 MSM died of AIDS. While the activists condemned anyone who draws attention to the behavior of MSM as blaming the victim, they deserve blame for pushing condoms as the solution and sabotaging the implementation of standard public health measures. To understand the extent of the betrayal of victims, one has only to compare the HIV epidemic with the recent outbreak of Ebola.

In March of 2014 the first cases of Ebola appeared in West Africa. In less than two years over 28,539 people had been infected and 11,298 had died. However, by the first week of November 2015, only a single new case was reported and the epidemic appears to be over. The success can be credited to massive media coverage, which focused resources on the epidemic, and the strict application of standard public health measures. This victory was achieved in third world countries where the health care facilities are primitive, and public health workers had to combat traditional burial practices, which spread the disease. The authorities used education and enforced quarantines. Those taken into quarantine were afraid they were being taken off to die. When they emerged disease free, they were grateful. The strict measures worked.

On the other hand, the HIV epidemic among MSM continues. Even though highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) has transformed a HIV diagnosis from a virtual death sentence to a chronic disease, and HAART can lower the viral load so that the patient is unlikely to infect others, the number of newly infected MSM continues to rise. According to the CDC, “In 2010, the estimated number of new HIV infections among MSM was 29,800, a significant 12% increase from the 26,700 new infections among MSM in 2008.”

Had standard public health measures been instituted, the epidemic might have been controlled. Standard public health protocols for stopping the spread of HIV would have included: mandatory testing programs focusing on men who receive treatment for other sexually transmitted infections and who misuse club drugs (such as crystal meth, GHB, ecstasy, and ketamine), transsexuals, prostitutes, and injection drug users. Targeting these populations would identify those most likely to be infected and to infect others. All those who tested positive would immediately be prescribed HAART and monitored for compliance. They would also be required to provide the names of all their sexual partners. Each of these would be contacted and tested, and, if HIV positive would be required to provide the names of their partners. Of course, this would be confidential. If an infected man did not know the name of a particular partner (something common among MSM), he would be required to provide the name of the venue where the contact occurred. If the location was found to be a place where a number of anonymous encounters routinely occur—such as bathhouses, or circuit parties, or internet chat rooms—the venue would be closed. Blood donors would be screened.

Given that from diagnosis to death it costs more than a half million dollars to treat one HIV-infected man, and since no one has a right to infect others with a serious disease, this is the least of what should have been done.

Why then, in the thirty-four years since the first gay men died of AIDS, have these measures not applied?

Because since the beginning of the epidemic, the activists have claimed that this epidemic was unique. In 1983 activists issued the Denver Principles, demanding the right of people living with AIDS (PWA) to be involved in every level of policy decision-making. According to the Principles, PWA had a right to “as full and satisfying sexual and emotional lives as anyone else.”

Once given virtually absolute veto power, the activists insisted there was no need to impose standard public health measures. Instead, they promoted the Condom Code, arguing all that was necessary to stop the epidemic was for everyone (including male/female partners) to use a condom every time. This was, at best, a risk reduction strategy. Those promoting it knew that the virus could slip through and, no matter their good intentions, few MSM followed the Code 100 percent of the time. In spite of this, the activists insisted there was no need for mandatory testing, no need to inform partners of the infected, no need to close venues, no need to restrict blood donation. This systematic rejection of standard public health protocols has been extensively documented, including in the book and the movie And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts, a gay reporter who died of AIDS. The activists cared more about protecting their sex lives, their sexual revolution, and their “brotherhood of promiscuity” than preventing new infections. Even when the failure of the Condom Code was well-documented, the gay activists used the epidemic to push pro-homosexual education in schools at all levels, under the guise of Safe Sex. Confused children and adolescents were encouraged to self-identify as gay.

The activists have been given almost everything they demanded, and the result has been that, in spite of the advances in treatment, the number of new infections per year continues to rise. It is now recognized as a syndemic, a situation where a number of different pathologies—in this case psychological disorders, depression, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, a history of child abuse, and a wide variety of STIs—combine to reinforce each other and make behavior change difficult.

In 2012, in a special issue, the British medical journal The Lancet admitted that the “HIV prevention approaches to date have been insufficient to curb the HIV epidemics in MSM.” Behavioral interventions “do not effectively decrease the incidence of new HIV infections.” They do recommend “counseling” for troubled “sexual and gender minority adolescents.” One would assume that the counseling recommended would be the sex-positive gay and transgender affirming therapy, which has failed in the past to prevent new infections.

Many of the boys pushed by pro-gay education into self-identifying as gay are victims of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) by a male. Men with a history of CSA are more likely to become HIV positive than other MSM and extremely resistant to Safe Sex education. Treating the CSA might help a boy realize he is not gay. Preventing gay or transgender self-identification, or even simply delaying it, would without question prevent HIV infections. Not treating vulnerable children will virtually assure that a significant percentage will become HIV positive.

Gay activists’ rejection of standard public health protocols has prolonged the HIV epidemic, causing unnecessary suffering and death. They should be called to account.

(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Dale O'Leary

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Dale O’Leary is the author of The Gender Agenda and One Man, One Woman. Her blog can be found at http://daleoleary.wordpress.com/

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