In Los Angeles in the summer of 1983, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) killed three babies. These deaths made it plain for all with eyes to see that this disease posed an issue of public morality, as well as one of public health. Nevertheless, as we shall see, the moral blindness of those with public authority has prevented or stalled a solution to even the problems of public health caused by AIDS.
The three babies had been born prematurely and thus required a number of blood transfusions. The doctors who cared for them believed that one or more of the 57 persons who supplied the blood were carriers of AIDS, which is to say that they were very active homosexuals. Nevertheless, Dr. Shirley Fanin, Los Angeles County’s deputy associate director for communicable disease programs, refused to try to identify the AIDS donor. Fanin said she feared to “disrupt” the lifestyles of citizens. Apparently, the probability that the same donor might kill again-indeed, the possibility that he might be deliberately contaminating the blood supply, as has since been reported in at least one case-was not as important to the public health bureaucracy as the homosexuals’ right to privacy.
Dr. Fanin’s overdeveloped sense of delicacy about “gay rights” is not at all unusual among public health professionals. Wherever AIDS is spreading, those responsible for the public’s good health and for the education of the public about health and disease have a similar attitude, even in the face of what they themselves claim to be the most deadly disease known to humanity.
Consider what happened in Miami about a year ago, when the death of a surgeon was handled with the same characteristic delicacy. “We don’t have any confirmation in writing,” the director of the Dade County Health Department said with obvious circumspection, “that AIDS has been diagnosed.” Yet Dr. Robert Katims of the Florida Board of Medical Examiners did not hesitate to declare flatly, “Every doctor in Dade County knows” that the surgeon died of AIDS. However, when it comes to AIDS, what every doctor knows and indeed what every citizen knows, namely that it would cease if male homosexual practices would cease, is deliberately ignored by the public health bureaucrats.
Nowhere is moral preciousness about this deadly disease more frankly professed than in San Francisco, which has the greatest number of AIDS victims per capita and which has a politically powerful homosexual faction. There public health officials are reported to have refused to publicize the results of studies of the extent of AIDS and of the precise means by which it is spread. The officials claimed to fear that the general public would understand the results “out of context” and become alarmed at “gay lifestyles.”
However, it is in New York, the state with by far the greatest number of AIDS cases, that the practice of slighting public health for the sake of “gay rights” is public policy. When AIDS began to become a national political issue, the New York State AIDS Task Force’s Initial Report to the Governor (June 21, 1983) argued that in dealing with the problem of AIDS the first responsibility of government is the protection of the rights of homosexuals!
Reading such stories as these, one has the distinct impression that the public health intelligentsia prefers protecting the “lifestyle” of homosexuals to protecting the lives of innocents. However, in fact, the problem is a little more complicated than that.
The problem of AIDS is, of course, a very serious one in those few cities where AIDS is spreading-New York, Miami, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Houston, Los Angeles.1The fascination of the national press, e.g., cover stories by Time and Newsweek in July and August, 1985, has made it fascinating elsewhere. In those few cities where it is prevalent, the number of those diagnosed has doubled every six months since the disease first appeared among New York City’s homosexuals in 1979. Death within two years of diagnosis is almost certain for the 8,000 new cases that are expected in 1985 in the United States; these 8,000 would come from among the 400,000 to 1,000,000 Americans who are presumed to have been exposed so far. (All statistics, but especially prospective ones, on AIDS are highly speculative.) AIDS is beginning to appear among homosexuals in Western Europe and is apparently far advanced in the Soviet Union.
Doctors and nurses who care for the victims are usually appalled, because death from AIDS is hideous: One part of the body’s immune system collapses, refusing to defend the body from viral invaders; what might be a tiny cold sore for a healthy person engulfs the whole body of an AIDS victim. Often the brain is infected, causing tortured delusions. Care for AIDS victims, like long-term care for anyone who is terminally ill, is so expensive that it typically exhausts the means of the relatively young men (average age about 39 years) who die from it, leaving them wards of the state. AIDS patients live an average of 224 days after they are diagnosed, and that costs an average of about $129,000, most of which is borne by the public. If some of the wilder predictions about AIDS were true-5.5 million cases by 1988-then this disease could bankrupt the medical care system; fortunately, they are not sound. However this may be, considered in itself, AIDS is so deadly, expensive, and bizarre that any news story on it is likely to be sensational.
However, AIDS cannot be considered “in itself,” as if it were just one more communicable disease. AIDS is primarily a venereal disease of male homosexuals. That is, although about 75 percent of AIDS victims are male homosexuals, the other 25 percent are heterosexuals who caught it from “blood contact,” i.e., through transfusions of blood or blood products (including vaccines) or by “needle sharing” among intravenous drug abusers;2 all those who have caught AIDS by blood contact, including several hundred hemophiliacs, have had that contact with male homosexuals.
Although AIDS thrives where male homosexuality is tolerated or, as in the case of San Francisco, encouraged, male homosexuality is not the immediate cause of AIDS. Using the over-delicate language of public health professionals, the Centers for Disease Control’s Mortality and Morality Weekly Report describes the typical AIDS victim as follows: “homosexual and bisexual males with multiple sexual partners.” This is accurate, but it would have been more precise and less misleading to say: “persons who habitually take the passive role in various sexual acts to the anus, including anal intercourse with many (a dozen or more) different partners a day.” Or, more simply, “the denizens of homosexual bathhouses.” When Dr. James Mason, head of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said, “. . . if we can convince people to shift their lifestyle, . . . then we can stop the transmission of this disease in its tracks” (on David Brinkley’s “This Week” news program), he was really referring to just this repeated abuse of the anus. Clearly the disease’s agent (human T-cell lymphoma virus or HTLV-III) is carried in the semen; since anal intercourse promotes bleeding, it affords the agent easy entry to the bloodstream. Thus it is not remarkable that men can give AIDS to women, but women cannot give it to men, nor that AIDS is unknown among female homosexuals. As a practical matter, the anus must be penetrated. In sum: AIDS is not at all easily contracted, and, in a sense, it can be contracted only by some invasion of the circulatory system.
Part of the reason that the etiology of AIDS has been difficult to trace is that mass, anonymous, commercialized sodomy is not the limit of the perversity and sickness of the “gay lifestyle.” The medical literature suggests the participation of AIDS victims in various forms of bestiality, in cacophagy, and in other kinds of self-debasement which are practiced in bathhouses and sadomasochistic “torture chambers” of San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and elsewhere; at this writing it remains undetermined whether or in what way these perversions contribute to the disease. Moreover, all homosexual AIDS victims have had Hepatitis B, as well as at least one other venereal disease. In short, the homosexuals who typically contract AIDS are the dregs of the “gay community”-disease- and drug-ridden, used, and abused by other homosexuals.
Since it is such sexual perversions which cause and spread AIDS, a few public officials in San Francisco and New York called for the closing of the bathhouses. Organized homosexuals howled in protest: Bathhouses are the fundamental institution-indeed, the only institution-of the “gay lifestyle.” Indeed, to many homosexuals the bathhouse is the symbol and even the epitome of the “sexual liberation” for which they came out of the closet. Thus, in the words of San Francisco “gay activist” Konstatin Berlandt, closing the bathhouses would be “genocidal.” Yet organized homosexuals did have a point in arguing that closing the bathhouses would not end the activities which spread AIDS. That is, the real problem is the absence (or non-enforcement) of anti-sodomy laws, and their replacement (in law or in fact) with a policy of tolerating all sexual acts between “consenting adults.” Although this policy was originally advanced in the name of human sexual freedom, it is clear enough today that its major consequences have been the degradation of human sexuality, as in the homosexual bathhouses, and of human freedom itself, as in the sado-masochistic “torture chambers” which the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York license to do business in homosexual neighborhoods.
When these rather grim realities of the “gay lifestyle,” all gathered from the medical literature, are known, the wisdom and indeed the common sense of the public health bureaucracy becomes questionable. Charged with protecting the health of the public, how could it turn to the protection of “gay rights” in preference to human life and health?
One must take into account the naiveté of the public health intelligentsia about human perversity. An especially striking example is the National Cancer Institute’s attempt to discover the immunogenic effects of the amyl nitrate inhalers (“poppers”), which are such an important part of the “gay lifestyle” and which are said to be the drug-of-choice of AIDS victims. The Institute’s initial study (but not its final report) of amyl nitrate did “suggest immunological effects” upon mice. Much to the amusement of the “gay community,” the scientists at first missed the obvious connection between AIDS and “poppers”; Amyl nitrate relaxes the anal sphincter. When it was understood, use of amyl nitrate, like being Haitian (see below), was dropped from the list of “risk factors.” In general, the public health intelligentsia is prepared to take into account poor health habits and human ignorance, but it is not prepared for the hatred of human life and human sexuality that one finds within the “gay lifestyle.”
Beyond this, a few within the public health intelligentsia have ideological sympathy with sexual perversion. For example, when Mervyn F. Silverman, M.D., M.P.H., was director of health for San Francisco, he had courses in “safe” sadomasochistic torture taught in the city’s “leather bars.” (This public enthusiasm for sadomasochism has trailed off in San Francisco since mid-1984, after several masochistic “slaves” burned to death, chained down amid exploding “poppers,” when one of the city’s commercial torture chambers caught fire.) In Los Angeles, the City Council has passed an ordinance forbidding any kind of discrimination against AIDS victims; not even those who serve the public in restaurants are permitted to be dismissed from their jobs. The law’s author, the aforementioned Dr. Fanin, remarked that it was a means of “educating the public and a way of protecting people who are not able to protect themselves.” Since she was not equally scrupulous about protecting newborns from AIDS-tainted blood, what else could Fanin have meant by this “education” but a way to breed ideological sympathy for homosexuality? Wherever homosexuals are politically powerful, one is likely to find an ideologically sympathetic health department, because any public-spirited health department would, among other things, close down the bathhouses. Indeed, as AIDS raged on, even Dr. Silverman came to favor some legal restraints upon the bathhouses; shortly thereafter, he was forced to resign.
Another reason for the moral responsibility of public health bureaucrats is the belief, bordering on positivism, that science ought to set the standards for public policy. This attitude has been especially obvious in the recent controversies over the exclusion of AIDS patients from the classroom. Three years ago, the official attitude was perfectly formulated by Dr. David J. Sencer, New York City’s Commissioner of Health: “What are the problems [of AIDS] for the general public? Fear of the unknown. How is this expressed? By suggestions of quarantine, by discriminatory actions, by irrational behavior.” Dr. Sencer is one who now insists that AIDS patients attend school with healthy children. Similarly, Dr. Charles Jaffe, an epidemiologist for CDC’s AIDS project, has declared on CBS News Radio that AIDS patients should not be excluded from schools and “food-handling positions” because scientists had not been able to “quantitate” any risk of the spread in these circumstances. These medical scientists seem unable to grasp the simple fact, well known for several thousand years, that the standards^ of social and political life are not simply scientific: In politics, ignorance is a reason for prudent caution, not bold experimentation with human lives and the social fabric.
A final reason for the public health bureaucracies’ solicitude for “gay rights” and the “gay lifestyle” is their belief that they need the cooperation of organized homosexuals. Obviously, the cooperation of homosexual organizations is useful both for the study of and the control of AIDS. However, it is not essential. The victims of AIDS must seek care, and thus they become objects of study, no matter what the newspapers and organizations of the “gay community” might tell them about the discrimination they will suffer at the hands of the public health authorities. However, because it is or is believed to be politically impossible to close down the bathhouses and enforce the anti-sodomy laws in those cities where that is necessary for the control of AIDS, the cooperation of those newspapers and organizations has been necessary to educate homosexuals about “safe sex.” And there is another reason for the belief in the need for cooperation. AIDS, like Hepatitis B, spreads to heterosexuals only through the transfusion of blood and blood-products. The cooperation of homosexual organizations, which persuaded the “gay community” not to give blood, is believed by the blood industry to have been essential in stemming the spread of Hepatitis B, another disease of male homosexuals which threatened to contaminate the blood supply. Indeed, if health professionals are unwilling to discriminate against homosexuals-whether because of their ideological liberalism or political pressures or local ordinances-then they have little option but to seek the cooperation of organized homosexuals in arresting this disease.
However, one should also consider what Blood Policy & Technology, a recent publication of Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment, argues: Any system of screening blood donors, rather than the blood itself, must be ineffective, if only because “the fear is great, and the perception that something is being done is important to public confidence“ (original emphasis). In other words, no matter what health bureaucrats might suppose, the general public is not willing to trust in the cooperation of homosexuals.
Indeed, the more the public health bureaucrats insist upon protecting “gay rights,” the more they insist that bigotry and irrational fear on the part of the general public is as serious a problem as the disease itself, the greater the general public’s fear is likely to grow, for just these kinds of remarks undermine the bureaucracy’s authority as servants of the public. The hope that the general public’s fear of death can be assuaged, and the authority of the bureaucracy restored, by some propaganda campaign (e.g., centering on the fact that “President Reagan’s friend” Rock Hudson had the disease) died a-borning. The reason is obvious: Even more fearsome than AIDS is the fact that public officials are more concerned with “gay rights” than with public health.
The public health officials have put themselves in a double bind: They can protect “gay rights,” but they must conceal the harsh truth about AIDS from the public; if they conceal the truth, they lose public authority. This problem became apparent even to the mass media during the controversy over sending children to school with AIDS victims. In the week of September 22, 1985, ABC, NBC, and Time ran feature stories on “public hysteria” over AIDS, which-for the first time in national media-stressed the unlikelihood of heterosexual communication and the importance of anal intercourse in the transmission of the disease. Little as the media and the public health authorities like it, this country still cannot be run without the enlightened consent of the governed.
So far the chief beneficiaries of AIDS have been the vast variety of homosexual organizations. These have responded to the increase of federal money from $12 million to $140 million in two years for virtually anything connected with the disease. Many of them are overtly political organizations, which invariably support the Democratic party, most provide some sort of “community service,” and some actually help those afflicted with AIDS. That is, it is a mistake to believe that, in general, organized homosexuals are primarily concerned with arresting the spread of AIDS.
When AIDS first began to gain national attention in the summer of 1983, only about 1,400 cases had been diagnosed, but the House Committee on Government Operations held hearings on the “Federal Response to AIDS.” These hearings, parts of which were televised, have proven to be decisive in setting the public agenda on AIDS.
After the emotional opening testimony of several AIDS victims, all the big names in organized homosexuality testified. The testimony was clear: These organizations were interested in the public health problems of AIDS only insofar as they could gain some legal and political advantages, and some public respectability for homosexuals. Typical of the organized homosexuals was Virginia Apuzzo, Executive Director of the National Gay Task Force. She was really interested in “strong and lasting protection for the privacy and confidentiality of persons with AIDS,” which could only be achieved, she believed, by legislating “gay rights.”
. . . the governments [sic] slow response on AIDS is directly related to who is affected by this disease as much as what the disease is. The groups most affected . . . are traditionally victims of discrimination, often officially sanctioned.
She claimed to be unwilling to cooperate with government until “gay rights” legislation was passed, all the while demanding increases in spending for AIDS: “. . . there is no premise, no substance, no basis . . . [for cooperation with] a government that in fact denies us job security-in 24 States we are illegal. . . .”
Moreover, Apuzzo blamed society even for the extraordinary perversions, which had already been identified as “risk factors” for the disease, but which were never described in the public parts of these hearings: “. . . take some cognizance of what is the oppression of a gay male or lesbian in this country. Not as an excuse, but symptomatic of that oppression, there is a style of life that might not be the style of life, if we were not able to share domiciles together in many States.” Even more blunt was the testimony of Christopher J. Collins of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund: “The broad issue to be addressed by this subcommittee is how the federal government responds to the overall needs of disenfranchised groups.”3 AIDS was simply secondary to his concerns.
The opinion that hatred and fear of homosexuals contributes to AIDS is deluded, of course. MDS occurs almost entirely in cities in states where homosexuals are able not only “to share domiciles together,” but to do virtually anything else together and in public. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York have elaborate legal and administrative codes of “gay rights.” Not oppression but license breeds “a style of life that might not be the style of life” unless we count as oppression the ways homosexuals abuse each other. However, such public delusions are necessary if homosexuals are to gain the legal and moral status of “stigmatized minority” which is the precondition for “gay rights.”
The use of “stigma,” of “oppression,” of disenfranchised minority” is part of the civil rights vocabulary originating (as Edward J. Erler has demonstrated) with Brown v. Board of Education and fully developed through the practice of Affirmative Action over the past two decades. Public health bureaucrats, like all the others, are now fully attuned to this vocabulary and the policies implicit in it. For example, Jay Winsten, the director of Harvard School of Public Health’s Office of Health Policy Information, testified to the Governmental Relations subcommittee that there was a danger of “stigma” becoming attached to AIDS. Indeed, among health professionals, the fear of “stigmatizing” someone seems to be greater than the fear of AIDS; part of the reason that the American supply of blood and blood products has been endangered by AIDS is that health professionals have been afraid to brand gays” with “the stigma of ‘bad blood.'”
There is a certain irony in all this, since the one thing the organized homosexuals would like to have before anything else is official recognition as a “stigmatized” minority. That alone would guarantee them the unequal legal rights and increased access to public treasure which Affirmative Action affords its beneficiaries.
Even more than public health officials, the mass media has been happy to cooperate with organized homosexuals for the protection of “gay rights” from public alarm. Indeed, the mass media bent over backwards to protect homosexuals by unnecessarily alarming the public about heterosexuality! The daily newspapers, the nightly TV news programs, the national news magazines take every new opportunity to encourage the opinion that AIDS is spreading freely, and even without sexual contact, among heterosexuals, although according to all the medical evidence, this opinion is false. Indeed, the proportions of AIDS victims-around 73 percent male homosexuals, around 18 percent intravenous drug abusers, and the rest hemophiliacs-have remained the same since it was first diagnosed, nevertheless, every new bit of evidence, even very individual case, which seems to point away from homosexuals is reported uncritically, and the massive medical evidence to the contrary is slighted. For example, in February, 1985, all across the country the story was reported on front pages: “Man Gets AIDS By Kissing Wife.” Two days later and 40 pages back, the story was (sometimes) corrected: An autopsy revealed that pneumonia, totally unrelated to any immune deficiency, killed the man. As Robert Bazell notes in the first, and almost the only straightforward article on AIDS in the national press (“The History of an Epidemic,” New Republic, August 1, 1983), the reports that AIDS can be spread by means other than homosexual contact and needle use will continue to be spread in the press as long as the press is fascinated by the disease, because people lie to doctors and reporters about these things.
Yet it is something more than horrified fascination that keeps the press reporting to the general public that ordinary heterosexuality can cause AIDS. The standard propaganda line of organized homosexuals is “Homosexuality Does Not Cause AIDS, A Virus Does.” Public health bureaucrats, together with the press, hope that this proves true, and report everything that points in that direction. So, when the number of AIDS victims quadrupled in Santa Clara County, which is near San Francisco, the coordinator of the county’s AIDS Project said, with that moralistic glee born of gloating, “This isn’t just a San Francisco problem, and it isn’t just a gay problem, folks!” The San Jose Mercury-News, the leading paper in Northern California, headlined this remark, reporting it as if it were authoritative. It did not bother to inquire whether Santa Clara’s victims were homosexuals who had acquired the disease in the usual way. In a somewhat more sophisticated way, but just as certainly, Newsweek’s recent cover story on AIDS (and to a lesser extent Time’s) played upon the fears of heterosexuals and cooperated with the public health bureaucracy’s conspiracy of silence about the alarming side of “gay lifestyles.” For example, Newsweek remarks in a footnote, “Although AIDS is common in Haiti, Haitians in the U.S. have been dropped as a risk category,” without anywhere explaining that they were dropped when it was discovered the Haitian AIDS victims were homosexual prostitutes in Haiti who concealed that fact from medical investigators because they were ashamed of it. So far as I know, heretofore there has been only one article (Peter Collier and David Horowitz, “White Wash,”California, July 1983) outside the medical journals which in any way does justice to the extent of filth, disease, and degradation which is to be found in the “gay lifestyle” of the typical AIDS victim.
By emphasizing the heterosexual angle to the AIDS story, and by cooperating with the public health bureaucrats’ conspiracy of silence, the news media has helped to spread misinformation about the disease. In particular, the media emphasize the fact that non-homosexuals are contracting AIDS, but fail to point out that virtually every case of non-homosexual AIDS of which there is any substantial medical knowledge can be traced back to those engaged in homosexual practices. The reason for this silence is obvious: The problem of AIDS can be solved instantly and efficiently by restricting homosexuality, not by granting it rights.
No one is more responsible for the problems of AIDS than the elected American political leadership. This is one problem which cannot be blamed immediately upon the federal bureaucracy. In the first place, AIDS is due to the failure of local governments. Every city which has a serious AIDS problem also has a (Democratic) local political leadership which is heavily dependent upon politically organized homosexuality. (In San Francisco, it was a coalition including organized homosexuals and the late Jim Jones’s organization which brought the current regime to power.) That is why the United States Conference of Mayors has taken such an intense interest in this disease, not only lobbying for federal dollars but even going so far as to put up some of its own money.
At the national level, there are some politicians, notably Henry Waxman (Democrat, California), who are heavily dependent upon homosexual organizations. However, a certain intellectual and moral cowardice is at the root of the problem. This is especially common among Republicans, who seem to fear that they will be thought backward or bigoted by someone (it is never clear just who). For example, in the 1983 “Federal Response to AIDS” hearings, Congressman Alfred A. McCandless (Republican, California) wished to inquire whether “there are certain personal habits” which cause AIDS but feared he would be thought “an insensitive person.” The Representative apologized, “If my questions tend to take on some kind of connotation, it is not intended.”
Much the same fear of being thought unenlightened appears to have stampeded former Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler into declaring that “AIDS [is] the number one public health priority.” Not so incidentally, the declaration was made before the United States Conference of Mayors. This declaration had real consequences: Research on rabies, on flu vaccine for the elderly, on Lassa fever, on Korean Hemorrhagic Fever, on Reyes Syndrome, on DNA recombinate technology, on infertility caused by sexually transmitted diseases, and on gonococcal resistance were all curtailed for the sake of AIDS research.4 Since AIDS, unlike most of these other diseases, could have been stopped dead by outlawing and/or enforcing the laws against mass, anonymous, commercialized sexual perversion, the Secretary’s declaration is a measure of how much she fears appearing to be unenlightened, for the public health intelligentsia, in common with the organized homosexuals, still clings to the dogma that “you-can’t-legislate-morality” and claims that legal discrimination against homosexuality is irrational-“homophobia”-and a “return to the dark ages.”
Ultimately, AIDS does not pose an important political issue because it is a deadly disease or because it threatens to be the Black Death of the twentieth century. Many diseases claim more victims than AIDS, and all the evidence indicates that AIDS is not likely to spread to the general population on the scale of a plague. Nor is it fair to pose the issue in terms of hatred or fear of homosexuality. What is at stake is the public recognition of the moral equality of homosexuality with heterosexuality. After all, AIDS thrives, not where homosexuals are persecuted, but where at least they are tolerated, and often where they enjoy superior legal rights to heterosexuals.
The moral equality of homosexuality is seldom advocated explicitly. Instead, the libertarian principle that the private activities of consenting adults (e.g., “in their own bedrooms”) is put forward as a suitable standard for public policy. This principle appears to apply equally to heterosexuals and homosexuals. In practice, the policy of tolerating any sexual activity between “consenting adults” has not prevented government from regulating sexual activity, nor has it enhanced the privacy of sexuality. Instead, it has occasioned the publicity of sexual acts, especially acts of sexual perversion, on the ground that they are between consenting adults, and it has involved local governments in the licensing and inspection of various kinds of businesses where “adults” go to “consent.” In California (and, one assumes, elsewhere), “consenting adults” legislation went out of its way to make bestiality tolerable, even though animals cannot consent and are not adults, and thus abolished even the moral distinction-present in the laws of every civilized and most barbaric peoples-between human and subhuman sexuality. In sum, the effect of this policy is the abolition of moral distinctions among sexual acts.
The consequences of a public health policy founded upon indifference to sexual morality have been devastating. A decade ago many doctors believed they would conquer infectious diseases altogether by now. At that time, venereal diseases were limited to five well-known infections. Today, at least 32 organisms and 26 syndromes are officially recognized as being “sexually transmitted.” AIDS is just one among many. What must be the social consequences when sexual relations become so polluted?
The notions that all sexual acts are morally equal, and that they ought to be so regarded by the laws and public officials, are equally that of the intelligentsia and organized homosexuals. For example, when leaders of “the gay community” have objected to the use of what they call “the value-laden term ‘promiscuity'” to describe homosexuals or victims of AIDS, the intelligentsia responded by speaking of “multiple partners.” Increasingly, this demoralization of human sexuality has infected our political leaders. By the Preventive Health Amendments of 1984, all references to “venereal diseases” were replaced by “sexually transmitted diseases” in public laws and in the new political lexicon. Although the reason for the change does not come out in the public record, the words speak for themselves: “Venereal” is a term of moral distinction, referring to the unrestrained pursuit of sexual pleasure, that quite accurately describes (and “stigmatizes”) most of the victims of these diseases.
In the final analysis, the sexual amorality which dominates public discourse about AIDS is not really governed by the libertarian principle. If that were so, many people would hesitate to advocate that government “legislate morality” when it comes to racism, tobacco smoking, environmental pollution, and so on. Rather, the dominant opinion about that is expressed by Dr. Robert Dowdle of the CDC: “This is not a question of morality. It’s just a biological fact.” To such people, the very idea of sexual perversion-i.e., the conviction that the proper use of the genitalia is for purposes having something to do with the perpetuation of the human species-is anathema.
Dr. Dowdle’s opinion is standard for the intelligentsia. Indeed, his very common opinion is characteristic of much of modern philosophy: Biology has nothing to do with morality; Nature is mere material necessity, indifferent to the good of humanity. The older notion, common in the Biblical tradition as well as in the tradition of classical philosophy, is that Nature is beneficent at least in her provision of standards for human life. For example, the ancient philosopher Xenophon noticed the general providence of Nature in placing the anus where it is, rather than, say, between the eyes. Today the conventional wisdom is that such arrangements are mere accidents, “biological facts” devoid of moral meaning. However, as the biological facts of AIDS reveal, the refusal to recognize the beneficence of Nature-at least in her provision of standards-is ultimately a death-dealing refusal to recognize the goodness of human life.
Above all in the United States, the notion of the beneficence of the “biological facts” ought not to be anything strange. As Harry Jaffa has been insisting for decades now, we began our life as a people by dedicating ourselves to a proposition of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” that “all men are created equal.” By this, the Declaration of Independence means that Nature has given us a standard for living together justly. The “biological fact” of a distinct human species has moral meaning; no human may rightly treat another human, the way any human may rightly treat any dog, i.e., rule him without his consent. To lose sight of Nature’s standards, then, is not only to reject the blessedness of human life, but also-as the existence of AIDS reveals-to reject the blessings of liberty.
1AIDS is also quite common in prisons.
2Virtually all homosexual AIDS patients have been drug abusers.
3Interestingly, Collins counted homosexuals intravenous drug abusers, and Haitians, but not hemophiliacs, among the “at-risk” groups that were also “disenfranchised.”
4 In 1984, new cases of the most prevalent venereal diseases were as follows: 168,500 of gonorrhea, 26,500 of pelvic inflammatory disease, 3,900 cases of penicillin-resistant gonorrhea, 6,100 of primary syphilis. There are about 13,000 cases, new and old, of AIDS.