Cognition & Reality

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


Filed under: Emotion,Medical Morality,Propaganda,Urban Myths — drtone @ 2:04 pm

I remember back in 1986 when I realized that the AIDS “epidemic” or “pandemic” was largely a scam, that the danger of infection to an average middle-class American of either sex was vanishingly small. I also remember trying to have rational conversations about the actual threat of AIDS with friends and acquaintances. For example, I would point out that an alarming increase in the percentage of women in LA County diagnosed with AIDS meant that the actual number had gone from, like, six women to nine women (not in a year, but since such statistics had been kept)–a 50% increase, true, but barely a blip on the epidemiological radar. I would point out that, similarly, reports involving percentages of cases were inherently misleading, and that the absolute numbers in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly were far less disturbing than the squawking news media, who almost always reported on percentages, would have one believe. Or I would point out that for no other disease would supposed experts derive their epidemiological models for the industrialized world from conditions in Africa, where the “cofactors” for infection included disastrous public health conditions and where AIDS was diagnosed when a person presented with symptoms of TB.

In return, I would get such looks! Not only would no one listen, but they would either covertly or overtly attempt to shame me for downplaying the seriousness of the disease, by my actions placing untold numbers of people at risk. No one wanted to be confused with the facts, and they despised me for trying. Friends would as much as refuse to discuss the issue with me. It was so humiliating that I stopped talking about it, all the time knowing that time would prove me right, because the millions of expected deaths would never happen. They never did, and AIDS, once a topic of non-stop commentary and speculation, has faded from the public imagination, almost as if the whole thing never occurred. (Note that “terrorism” is meeting the same fate.)

I was reminded of that time, the mid 80s to mid 90s, while reading for an online “law & ethics” course I have to take to renew my psych license. Enshrined in law are detailed regulations regarding the proper procedure if, say, an infected individual threatens to infect others with HIV (the AIDS virus), and regarding the circumstances under which it is permissible to report to others that a person is infected with HIV. People were actually concerned that there would be those who would clandestinely “murder” others by literally fucking them to death. Maybe there were incidents of that sort, but if there were, they were extraordinarily rare, hardly of any more concern than the possibility that an infected individual would “deliberately” spread the flu, which is also potentially fatal. Yet, concerns about the possibility actually made it into the laws of California and other states.

In point of fact (because we can now see what the actual risk was), unless you were poor, a prostitute, a needle-using drug addict, or a member of the highly promiscuous “gay subculture,” in this country your risk of contracting AIDS from “unprotected” sex was (and remains) zero. As we know from countless reports, as well, the program to promote use of condoms against AIDS was a dismal failure. Public health measures do not, therefore, explain the failure of AIDS to infect a huge proportion of the population, as was widely predicted for upwards of a decade. Millions of North Americans and Europeans did not die simply because they were never in danger.

Some day histories will be written about the AIDS crisis, explaining the hysteria that captured and captivated America and the rest of the Western World. In part, I suspect a brilliant public relations campaign by gay activists who understood that ordinary Americans would never respond adequately to an epidemic that mostly affected gay men, the most hated and stigmatized group in our culture. By the same token, homophobia undoubtedly played a huge role, and wherever sex of any kind is involved, the public cannot help but follow. The almost endless list of players includes both the World Health Organization, excited about the opportunity to display its chops, and a burgeoning news media, hungry to fill the new 24-hour news cycle. Last but not least, the AIDS “crisis” followed a period of unprecedented sexual license that “infected” the entire society in one way or another.

It all added up to a phenomenon of gigantic proportions, a tempest in a very large, very noisy teapot, as we now know. With hindsight, we can see that society was undergoing a major structural change that is still happening. Possibly, the terror surrounding AIDS became shorthand for the groups at greatest risk, gays and Blacks, who were already perceived as a threat to social equilibrium. Fear of AIDS, then, may have been an expression of  anxieties so deep and so forbidden that to express them openly would have been intolerable. If that is true, the AIDS experience was not about disease or sex, but about the power of repressed emotion.



  1. Hi. This was very good and thoroughly thought out. I personally was caught up in some of the fear of AIDS, so I understood the hysteria around it. m

    Comment by annie wallack — Wednesday, 5 January 2011 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

  2. The bugaboo of heterosexual aids was a scam and we knew that then but from where I sit in San Francisco AIDS was a devastating plague. I’m not inclined to treat it as hype. I know too many people who lost so many friends and lovers. Time to rewatch Angels in America perhaps. I think it may have been necessary to mainstream awareness of the disease to start a much needed public health response to it.

    Comment by james stauffer — Wednesday, 5 January 2011 @ 7:42 pm | Reply

    • As I said, the gay community’s response did brilliantly “mainstream awareness of the disease.” In doing so, however, it turned a horrifying, devastating local problem into a national crusade that was aimed in many wrong places. Although it was perhaps a necessity from the ACT-UP P-O-V, the huge waste involved was itself a tragedy. Think of the billions spent on Trojans and HIV tests by and for heterosexuals that could have been spent fighting something other than a phantom, but that instead went into the pockets of those who make Trojans and HIV tests. If only the world could focus with that kind of intensity on, say, the imminent drought in many parts of the world or building better schools.

      As to “Angels in America,” I dare you to watch it again. I think you will find a vast emptiness there of special pleading and scaremongering. I was living in the Hillcrest section of San Diego at the time, and saw a neighbor waste away more or less before my eyes, as well as many other disheartening sights. It was very sad. But aren’t you doing exactly what I was addressing, using that sadness as if it were an argument against my point that the “AIDS pandemic” was a lie, something you conceded from the first? Although I’m pretty sure it’s not what I would have done, I don’t blame gays for attempting to mobilize some kind of counter-effort by cleverly and deliberately confusing the issue. But it got way out of hand. Right now, I’m not coming up with a handy analogy, but I’m sure there are plenty out there. Perhaps “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” will do.

      I will save for another blog entry my comments on the out-and-out racism and despicable blaming of the victim that characterized the world’s response to AIDS in Africa.

      That said, there have been two times in my life when I felt it to be unsafe to speak my mind. One was the late eighties and early nineties, when I was simply not allowed to say what I thought about AIDS, an issue that was consuming a huge amount of energy and attention. The other was in the aftermath of 9/11.

      Comment by drtone — Wednesday, 5 January 2011 @ 10:26 pm | Reply

  3. […] concerns about it come to the fore. That’s what occurred yesterday in connection with my entry on AIDS. Especially because of a comment I received, but also as a natural consequence of revisiting a […]

    Pingback by Scientific Consensus « Cognition & Reality — Thursday, 6 January 2011 @ 3:20 pm | Reply

  4. good

    Comment by james — Monday, 10 January 2011 @ 10:53 pm | Reply

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