The Judgment of Future Historians

Jim Burroway

June 23rd, 2006

Stall, Ronald D.; Mills, Thomas C. Editorial: “A Quarter Century of AIDS.” American Journal of Public Health 96, no. 6 (June 2006): 959-961.

This month’s edition of the American Journal of Public Health is dedicated to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the CDC’s first report of AIDS. In one of the lead editorials, Drs. Ronald Stall and Thomas Mills provide a brisk overview of the public response to the epidemic, and emphasize the special difficulties that come with combating a heavily stigmatized disease.

“A Disease of Denial”

Noting that AIDS struck first and the hardest at the most marginalized groups in society — gay men, drug users, foreigners, racial minorities and others of lower socioeconomic status — AIDS has been a disease of denial at the individual, group and national level. When the disease is seen as affecting “those people” it’s easier to deny some of the realities of what it actually takes to combat the epidemic:

Because so many controversial issues directly shape the AIDS epidemic, governments will continue to be tempted to respond by funding unproven programs that convey the impression of restoring traditional cultural values rather than fielding scientifically proven prevention approaches that directly target issues of sexual safety or drug use.

Citing six major meta-analysis studies, the authors contend that we have definitive proof that AIDS prevention programs which directly target safe sexual practices and drug use yield significantly positive results. The difficulty is in finding ways to put these programs into practice given the cultural and political climate today.

“How Will History Judge Our Actions?”

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the first report of AIDS offers an important moment to reflect on our response to this epidemic. Drs. Stall and Mills contend that because future historians will know that we weren’t ignorant of the dangers of the disease or how it is transmitted, “we cannot escape responsibility for our failure to use effective, scientifically proven strategies to control the AIDS epidemic.”

They will probably be impressed with the rapid progress made in scientific understandings of the pathogenesis and treatment of AIDS, yet appalled by the instances when the ancient curses of racism and homophobia prevented us from fully responding to AIDS epidemics unfolding in our midst, as is the case now with African American MSM [men who have sex with men].

…They will also likely regard as tragic those instances when we allowed scarce resources to be used to support ideologically driven “prevention” that only served a particular political agenda.

My Thoughts

We can avoid the harsh judgment of future historians, but that’s probably poor motivation for implementing the programs that we know will be effective in preventing the spread of AIDS. Instead, we should be motivated because we see those who are vulnerable as our neighbors, not as “those people.” Until we recognize the humanity of all those who are vulnerable and at risk, prevention measures will continue to be driven by ideology and not science — or compassion.

You can further explore the role that anti-gay prejudice has played in the AIDS epidemic in our special report Opportunistic Infections.

There are no comments for this post.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.