Be Faithful. Stay Alive (National Post July 9, 2008)

Barbara Kay, National Post 

Published: Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More money continues to be spent on HIV/AIDS -- a terrible but preventable scourge -- than any other disease in history. Billions. Much of it is wasted though, because control of the HIV/ AIDS industry is in the hands of liberal NGOs and medical experts who cut their battle strategies to fit their ideological cloths.

In a National Post column published on Monday, Michael Fumento, a public intellectual specialising in health issues, lamented the entrenched truth-avoidance in the AIDS industry. The barrier to progress, in his view, is resistance among AIDS-industry elites to acknowledging unpalatable epidemiological truths. These truths identify the sexual practices of their pet minorities as the culprit in spreading HIV, and change of those sexual practices as the key to reducing HIV infection in high-risk populations.

Three causes preoccupy liberal ideologues: the absolute divestment of morality from all sexuality, the normalization of homosexuality and the eradication of racism. Unfortunately, the hard truth around the spread of HIV/AIDS -- a nightmare trifecta for them -- indicts promiscuous homosexuals and certain African black populations, and tends to acquit sexually prudent heterosexuals.

How convenient it would have been for liberals if, as predicted by many in the 1980s, AIDS had spread like wildfire among Western heterosexuals. But it didn't.

It would also have been very convenient if the introduction of condoms had significantly reduced infection in African countries, so the practice of self-indulgent sexual "grazing" could have escaped moral judgment.

But alas for all those non-judgmental AIDS do-gooders: What has worked best and most rapidly to reduce HIV infection among both homosexuals and promiscuous Africans is partner reduction.

In a new book, The Invisible Cure by biologist Helen Epstein, the conspiracy to suppress the truth about what works to reduce HIV/AIDS infection and what doesn't is chronicled and analyzed. Ultimately, the author concludes that "partner reduction has played a key role wherever HIV rates have fallen."

Following sustained public information campaigns, Epstein notes, gay sex with multiple sex partners declined by 60% between 1984 and 1988 in San Francisco. New cases of AIDS plummeted from a peak of 2,400 in 1984 to fewer than 600 in 2000.

And then there's Uganda, where Epstein's postdoctoral work at the Uganda Cancer Institute sparked her interest in HIV/AIDS. Even though condom use rose throughout the '90s all over Africa, the HIV rate also kept climbing -- everywhere but Uganda, which had actually begun the decade with the highest rates of new HIV infection. As Fumento noted in his column, the proportion of Ugandans infected with HIV plummeted in the 1990s from 21% to 6%.

When the data was crunched by AIDS researcher Daniel Halperin (as noted in a review of Epstein's book in the June 23 issue of The Weekly Standard), this startling decline was not found to correspond to the increase in the use of condoms, but rather to the decrease in the proportion of casual sex with numerous partners.

Epstein credits the decrease in multiple partners to Uganda's "Love Carefully" and "Zero Grazing" campaigns against casual sex, ubiquitously promoted by politicians and the media.

And yet, although the relevant data was available to the AIDS establishment throughout the decade, Epstein observes, "When independent consultants, some of them hired by UNAIDS [The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS], reported to the agency that partner reduction, not condoms, was largely responsible for Uganda's HIV decline, their reports were ignored or never made public."

Worse, international AIDS "experts" scolded Uganda's National AIDS-Prevention Committee for encouraging sexual restraint, which was believed to be naive and ineffectual. Sadly, as advocacy of fidelity and youthful abstinence was systematically undermined, Uganda's HIV rates began to rise again.

In 2006, UNAIDS publicly acknowledged that partner reduction was pivotal to HIV reduction. It took so long because, in the words of a candid insider: "There was a sense that promoting fidelity must be totally wrong if it was a message favoured by the Christian Right. We've made an emotion-based set of decisions and people have suffered terribly because of that." It seems George Bush was actually on to something in his policy of linking aid money to the encouragement of sexual fidelity.

Unfortunately, this realization has come too late. AIDS establishment elites lied; gay and black AIDS victims died.