AIDS Not on White House Priority List, Philadelphia Inquirer Op-Ed Contends
"[T]here is little reason to believe that [President] Bush loses sleep over the spread of HIV," Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, writes in a an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Bush's 'compassionate conservatism' is too close-minded to support the kind of cutting edge outreach efforts that work best among at-risk groups," she continues. Tucker writes that because of this mindset, "there is no reason to expect an infusion of federal funds" to fight AIDS. At the same time, AIDS researchers and advocates have been "hit with more alarming news" about the spread of HIV. According to several studies presented at last week's 8th Conference on Retroviruses and Infectious Diseases, "many young men and women continue to be surprisingly reckless in their sexual practices, despite having grown up in the age of AIDS" and "[n]owhere is that more apparent than in young gay black men." A CDC survey estimates that one in three young black gay males is HIV-positive. Some attribute the rising HIV rates to "prevention fatigue" and the belief that pharmaceutical advancements "can give AIDS patients longer and healthier lives," but Tucker contends that "rampant homophobia" in the African-American community is the "larger cause" of high HIV incidence among young black gay males. Tucker writes, "[B]igotry against black gays and lesbians is so vicious and widespread that gay black men are likely to engage in sex with women to hide their sexual orientation," aiding the spread of the virus. Tucker calls on "black America" to "mount a vigorous campaign" against HIV, and says, "Every black sorority and fraternity, every black civic and social club, every black church ought to be supporting safe sex educational campaigns, encouraging testing and funding research." But even if these organizations mobilize efforts against the virus, their efforts "may be diminished" by the Bush White House, where "religious fundamentalists have gained power" and "might find a receptive audience for their homophobia in conservative black churches whose ministers share that view," Tucker writes. She concludes, "The power of their combined bigotry could prove devastating" (Tucker, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.