AIDS DATA VS. HYPERBOLE
By Michael Fumento
The Washington Times 8 June 1999
Brace yourself. The new annual report on AIDS is out, and the news is
horrifying. Horrifying, that is, if you've been riding the AIDS gravy train
or have made your reputation with cries of gloom and doom.
But for those who think the fewer who get this horrible disease the better,
the news is wonderful. As the figures from the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention attest, the bottom is truly falling out of the epidemic.
Overall, cases went from about 60,000 in 1997 to about 48,000 last year, a 20
So much for Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala's congressional
testimony six years ago that without massive federal AIDS intervention,
"There may be no one left."
What of everybody's biggest AIDS obsession, non-drug-abusing heterosexuals?
As a percentage of the whole, they remained at 14 percent. But since all
cases fell by about a fifth, then so did heterosexual cases. The
approximately 6,700 heterosexual AIDS cases reported last year equals about
15 percent of those who died in motor vehicle accidents.
So much for Oprah Winfrey's insistence in 1987 that a fifth of heterosexuals
would be dead of AIDS by 1990 or for what then-Surgeon General C. Everett
Koop once called "the heterosexual AIDS explosion."
What of the second biggest obsession, teenagers?
They comprised only 0.6 percent of all cases in 1997 and 1998, a total number
for 1998 of 297. Of these, 68 were in the heterosexual contact category.
So much for headlines like "Devastating spread of AIDS among U.S. teenagers,"
"AIDS runs wild among teenagers," and then Representative Pat Schroeder's
1992 assertion that AIDS is "spreading unchecked" among teens "and
threatening the loss of another generation."
What of AIDS babies? They went from 671 in 1996 to 473 in 1997 to 341 last
year. So much for USA Today's 1988 prediction that, "By 1991, 1 in 10 Babies
may be AIDS victims."
AIDS cases among women were supposed to soon overtake those of men. Indeed,
they did comprise 23 percent of all cases reported last year, a "jump" from
22 percent the year before. But in sheer numbers, women's cases fell from
more than 13,000 to fewer than 11,000.
So much for then-Surgeon General Antonia Novello's claim in 1993 that, "Women
are bearing the brunt of the infection," and USA Today's bizarre 1991
assertion that "Women are 12 times more likely to get AIDS."
Then, as if tornadoes weren't enough, there was all that talk about how AIDS
was rapidly spreading beyond the cities into rural America. But AIDS cases in
non-metropolitan areas fell from 8.4 per 100,000 persons in 1996 to 8 per
100,000 in 1997 to only 6.3 per 100,000 last year.
So much for the claims in the early 1990s of then chairman of the National
Council on AIDS, Dr. June Osborn, that "Many rural parts of America are about
to be blindsided by the epidemic," and AIDS "is rapidly spreading throughout
smaller and smaller communities each year."
We were also told, oh, about a million times, that AIDS soon could no longer
be identified with homosexuality. Yet, while sexually active male homosexuals
comprise perhaps 2 percent of the population, both for 1997 and 1998, they
made up 45 percent of AIDS cases. Add in homosexuals who also inject drugs
(and hence could have contracted the disease either way), and it was 50
percent for both years.
Meanwhile, in percentage terms at least, the ignored groups blacks and
Hispanics continue to bear an ever greater share of the AIDS burden.
For whites, only 10 per 100,000 were reported with AIDS last year. For
Asians, the rate was half that. But Hispanics had almost 4 times the white
rate while blacks in 1998 had an amazing rate of 85 AIDS cases per 100,000
Of babies reported with AIDS last year, only 58 were white and one was Asian.
Meanwhile, 237 of the babies were black and 84 Hispanic.
All this rather puts the kibosh on all those touchy-feely, warm and fuzzy,
politically correct statements such as the American Foundation for AIDS
Research (AmFAR) slogan, "AIDS is an Equal Opportunity Destroyer," or USA
Today's "AIDS remains a nondiscriminating killer."
AIDS has been destroying and killing in a most discriminating manner for two
decades now, and isn't about to stop.
As for the riders of that gravy train the bureaucrats who were going to save
the nation, the educators who only miseducated, the media, the feel-good
groups like AmFAR, the researchers who lied before Congress in hopes of
pumping up their budgets they're pretty much laying low now. No mea culpas
are forthcoming. None willbe.
Indeed, when I recently debated a Seattle public health official prominent in
the AIDS field, he made the tired old claim that "heterosexuals are the
fastest-growing portion of the epidemic." When I asked how with the epidemic
shrinking any group could be considered "the fastest-growing," he immediately
Homosexual activists are now admitting they literally conspired to exaggerate
the threat to nonhomosexuals, but expect no such forthrightness from the
media or the nation's health officials.
All these people richly deserve having their feet held to the fire for
misleading us so greatly and for so long, making us concentrate our resources
on where the epidemic wasn't and thereby taking away precious time, energy
and money from where the horrible blow was really falling.
But don't hold your breath.
Michael Fumento is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of "The
Myth of Heterosexual AIDS," published in 1990.