‘Obstructionist Approach’ to Mandatory HIV Testing Fuels AIDS Epidemic, Salon.com Columnist Says
Lack of mandatory HIV testing in the United States not only deprives unknowingly infected individuals of the "enhanced possibilities of survival through early treatment by drugs," but also means that "roughly 320,000 Americans are out there infecting unsuspecting others all the time," David Horowitz writes in his Salon.com column. He cites a new CDC study showing that 40% of the nation's HIV-positive population was unaware that they carried the virus for 10 years after being infected, learning of their HIV status only after receiving an AIDS diagnosis. The "march of death" fostered by unsuspecting sexual partners or individuals sharing needles is the result of the "surrender of public health authorities to the pressures of political groups opposed to what once had been the standard procedure for fighting epidemic disease like AIDS: testing," Horowitz writes. He says that "irresponsible zealots have successfully removed mandatory testing from the government's arsenal of weapons available in the battle against AIDS," noting the passage of laws against testing in California and New York, "which have by far the largest concentration of AIDS cases, HIV carriers and people at risk." Because the press has not raised questions or comments about the need for mandatory testing or made any "observations about the feckless surrender of public health officials to the prejudices and paranoia of special interest groups," Horowitz calls AIDS "the worst-reported story in the history of American journalism."
The Problem with Prevention
The term "prevention," as used by the CDC, "has been a cruel, Orwellian deception" because public health officials use the word to mean "only voluntary, mainly educational measures," Horowitz writes. Such measures are "inadequate to the task of actually containing the AIDS epidemic," he continues, adding that "real prevention of new AIDS infections would also involve reporting and contact tracing and the closing of infection sites (like public sex clubs)." Instead, as used by the CDC, "'prevention' is officially confined to voluntary measures that mainly involve 'counseling.' In other words, if you are willing, you can get tested. If you are willing, you can get information. ... But we know that not enough people are willing." Horowitz points to the gay community as an example, saying that no other group "has been bombarded with more information about AIDS ... and yet AIDS among gays is on the rise." When he asked Jessica Frickey of the CDC why the agency does not recommend mandatory testing, she explained that "people are scared of getting HIV tested because they might not get insurance." To this objection, Horowitz asks, "Why not have the government provide an insurance program for those who test positive for AIDS, alongside a program of required tests that might actually advance efforts to curtail this mass killer?" While AIDS activists have "long threatened" that mandatory testing would discourage at-risk groups from being tested and treated, Horowitz calls this an "obstructionist attitude by people who claim to be leaders of the battle against the disease that has created the present situation." He adds, "The only possible conclusion is that [9,000] deaths a year from an entirely preventable disease is perfectly acceptable to the American government because it is perfectly acceptable to the special interest groups that make up the AIDS lobby -- including AIDS health care providers, civil rights organizations, medical and scientific organizations and individuals who receive government funding." As a result, "people in the AIDS battle who know better," such as physicians and scientists, "are restrained from advocating changes in AIDS policies that have failed because they are afraid of being cut off from the community on which their work depends." Horowitz concludes, "Only an aroused and activist public can break this vicious cycle, which has had a crippling effect on the war against AIDS" (Horowitz, Salon.com, 8/21).