Grim Predictions

The TV newsman spoke in somber tones: "Researchers are making grim predictions about the spread of AIDS," he announced. It was one of numerous broadcasts you no doubt saw on the International Conference on AIDS held recently in Amsterdam. Speaker after speaker appeared on TV denouncing the United States for not spending more money on AIDS research. No one mentioned that the U.S. already spends more money on AIDS than on almost any other disease. And no one breathed a word about methods to control AIDS--maybe because those methods are resisted by the very people who keep demanding more money. And it's been that way ever since AIDS was first identified. Listen to some of the history, as related by Americans for a Sound AIDS Policy. Back when researchers first discovered that AIDS is spread through blood, blood banks were warned to stop accepting donors from high-risk groups, like homosexuals. Quickly, gay groups jumped on the policy for singling out homosexuals. And just as quickly, blood banks caved in to their pressure. Incredibly, the American Red Cross and most blood banks actually closed their eyes to the clear scientific evidence and denied for years that AIDS is transmitted through blood. It was the same story all over again when the first test was developed for detecting the HIV virus in blood. Gay groups were paranoid that the test would be used to identify homosexuals. They put pressure on blood banks not to tell anyone when a test came out positive--not even the blood donor himself. Remember, we're talking here about a fatal, communicable disease--and yet health officials were arguing over whether to tell people they had it! And when the test was finally licensed, gay groups persuaded the Food and Drug Administration to attach a label saying it could be used only to test blood, not to diagnose AIDS in patients. Doctors were aghast: Here in their hands was the tool they had been waiting for--a means of diagnosing the disease in its early stages when treatment might actually do some good. But gays were so afraid of being stigmatized that they pressed for legal prohibitions against using the test for diagnosis. They preferred death to disclosure. So when AIDS activists appear on our TV screens upbraiding America for not spending more money on AIDS, that in my book is utter hypocrisy. They themselves are the ones blocking even the most basic public health measures that could limit the disease: things like routine screening, early diagnosis, and notifying sexual partners. And in cases where people continue to be reckless and irresponsible, the solution might be quarantine. In Portland, Oregon, a young man who is HIV-positive admitted to infecting two women and was sentenced to house arrest. And Cuba, of all places, is reducing the incidence AIDS through a program of aggressive screening and quarantine. So it's time to face the facts: We will never gain the upper hand in this disease until we stop treating it like a political cause and start treating it like any other medical crisis.


Chuck Colson


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