MYTH #3

SINCE AIDS IS PRIMARILY A DISEASE OF HOMOSEXUALS AND I.V. DRUG USERS, THE GENERAL PUBLIC HAS NO REASON FOR CONCERN

There are four very important reasons why you should be concerned about this epidemic:

(1) The disease is spreading into the heterosexual population.
(2) New diseases and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are suddenly developing all across America and the world.
(3) The financial consequences of this epidemic will impact on every level of our society.
(4) Those who are dying are all human beings; they are all God's children.

(1) The epidemic is spreading into the heterosexual community. Of those with terminal-stage HIV disease (AIDS), there were over 27,000 Americans (as of June 1994) who acquired their disease through heterosexual contact. If you examine the statistics covering women with HIV disease in America, you will find that of the 51,235 women who were HIV infected (as of June 1994), 35% of them acquired their disease via heterosexual contact. In addition, if you examine the limited HIV statistics available from states where HIV disease is in some manner reportable, you will again find that 35% of infected women acquired their illness by heterosexual contact. Thus we see the epidemic beginning to spread into our heterosexual community, as the homosexual and IV drug-using communities become saturated with disease, and large numbers die off. (19)

The epidemic is also beginning to spread slowly into America's adolescents and children. The CDC estimates that there are between 10,000 and 35,000 infected college students in America. Anonymous testing in colleges across America reveals that in some colleges there is little or no disease, while "several (colleges) had HIV infection rates for men over age 24 as high as 6.5%." (20)

(2) New diseases and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are suddenly developing across America and the world. The good news is that HIV disease is relatively difficult to acquire by casual contact, although casual spread of HIV disease does occur (see Myth #4 below). If you and your children avoid sexual promiscuity, deep and passionate kissing, contact sports, nursery schools, or other situations where there is the potential for contact with blood or body secretions, there is relatively little danger of contracting HIV disease. The real danger for you and your loved ones is the ever-increasing possibility of contracting one of the new diseases or drug-resistant bacteria that are beginning to develop in America and all across the world. Tragically, every person with a suppressed immune system (which is the hallmark of AIDS) becomes a potential incubator for new and increasingly virulent diseases that can infect both you and your family. Whenever a person loses their ability to fight off disease, their body becomes a breeding ground for these new and increasingly virulent viral and bacterial diseases. Ordinarily, every normal person in a community has an immune system that protects every other person in their community. Normal people do not harbor or spread harmful diseases; however, if even one person in a community develops influenza, tuberculosis, Barr-Epstein virus or some other communicable disease, they have the potential of infecting others. The more people in any given community with a suppressed immune system, the greater the danger to the community as a whole.

Professor William Haseltine, Phd., Chief of the Division of Human Retrovirology at the Dana-Farber Institute; Professor in the Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, and Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology, Harvard School of Public Health, stated in his classic speech (given November 16, 1992 in Paris to the French Academy of Sciences):

"New epidemics will arise from the ever expanding population of patients with depleted immune function. The population of people with AIDS serves as a reservoir and breeding ground for deadly diseases. For example, the new world wide epidemic of tuberculosis arises directly from the population of people with AIDS. Unlike AIDS, some of these diseases will not require sexual contact for transmission. As the number of immune suppressed people grows, it is likely that the world population will suffer multiple, concurrent, lethal epidemics consequent to the AIDS epidemic." (21)

New and increasingly lethal strains of tuberculosis have already developed in the immunosuppressed bodies of those with HIV infection. In New York City alone, over 200 people have been infected with a multiple-drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis labeled "Strain W." This disease is 50% fatal, even with early and efficient drug treatment. (22)

Tuberculosis is on the rise in many communities across our land where the HIV epidemic is concentrated, and tuberculosis is highly communicable to the general population. There is one instance described in Bath, Maine, where an infected shipyard worker (with laryngeal tuberculosis) infected 417 of his fellow employees, 26 of them developing active pulmonary tuberculosis. (23)

A tuberculosis-infected flight attendant infected 23 of her fellow employees as a result of prolonged contact and rebreathing of cabin air during extended overseas flights. (24)

Penicillin-resistant forms of S. Pneumonia bacteria, an organism associated with pulmonary pneumonia, has suddenly begun to appear in HIV-infected patients. (25)

The question can be raised as to how many of the new viruses and new drug-resistant bacteria can be directly attributed to immunosuppressed patients acting as incubators for disease. In actuality, there are no valid statistics, other than the well-documented development of multiple-drug- resistant tuberculosis (MDR) among AIDS patients, noted previously. The explosion of new diseases and drug-resistant bacteria all across the world at this point in time, however, is certainly attributable, to a significant degree, to the ever-increasing number of tragic people who have lost their immunity and begun to incubate new viral diseases and drug-resistant bacteria.

The CDC has attempted to reassure the public that the recently reported wave of aggressive Group A Streptococcal infections (GAS), labeled by the media as the "flesh-eating bacteria", is nothing to be concerned about. Unfortunately, the CDC is once again deceiving our people. Since Streptococcal infections are not routinely reportable to public health authorities and thence to the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control has no idea exactly how many cases of potentially lethal Group A Streptococcus (GAS) infections are occurring across America today. In my community alone there were three cases clustered within a few weeks of one another in late 1994 - two of the patients knew one another and two of the patients died, despite amputations.

GAS disease was not uncommon during World War II, but had largely disappeared from the world until recently. Suddenly, in the late 1980s, clusters of cases developed in the Rocky Mountain states, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of the world. By late 1994, twelve people had died of invasive Streptococcus A in England. By early 1995, 5 people had died in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and four others had been seriously infected. The reason for the recurrence of this new virulent form of GAS disease is that the Group A Streptococcal bacteria has been secondarily infected with a virus that has made GAS much more toxic and deadly than ever before. (26) (27)

Drug-resistant forms of Pneumococcus bacteria, staphylococcus, Gonorrhea, etc. have developed at a frightening rate in America recently, while drug-resistant forms of cholera have developed in other lands. New epidemics have developed, i.e, the Hanta virus in the Mid-west, the Sabia virus in Africa, a new more toxic form of E Coli, etc. The end result of our refusal to address the HIV epidemic as an epidemic has resulted, either directly or indirectly, in outbreaks of new epidemics and new diseases and new drug-resistant bacteria all across the world. (28) (29) (30) (31)

(3) The financial implications of the HIV epidemic are potentially devastating. It is estimated that the cost of treating an HIV-infected patient, from the time of diagnosis until death, is over $100,000.00. As millions of Americans become infected with HIV disease, tuberculosis, or the myriad of other diseases associated with this epidemic, the welfare system, the disability insurance system, the health care delivery system, and local governments will be overwhelmed. Life and health insurance companies could well become insolvent (as is happening in Africa today), and our Federal government could eventually find itself increasingly unable to finance medical care for the terminally ill. (7)

(4) Those who are dying are all human beings; they are all God's children. In America today, outside the homosexual community and IV drug users, the HIV epidemic is spreading primarily into the poor and financially disadvantaged members of our inner cities. Those who are infected are, in large part, blacks, Hispanics, Caucasians who are unemployed or homeless, and those who use non-injectable drugs or alcohol. Because the disease has not yet spread into the white middle class, most people are not really concerned. Yet blacks, Hispanics, Caucasians, homosexuals, and IVDs are all human beings; they are all God's children. Disadvantaged Americans should be protected from infectious diseases by the use of the same standard public health measures used to protect the rest of our society. If we continue to ignore their plight, the epidemic will eventually continue its spread into our adolescents and college students, with tragic and terrifying results.

Even now, in areas of our country where there is a high incidence of disease, recent sentinel hospital studies found that 1.4% of teenagers 15-16 years of age were infected. In the Bronx Lebanon Hospital, and the University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, 6-8% of low-risk children (mostly black-ed) were infected. (32)


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