The Band Plays On, Good News on AIDS

January 01, 2001  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  the American Spectator  ·  Aids

If I ever decide I need to get blood from a turnip, I’m calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their friends in the media.

Why? For almost fifteen years now they have performed the incredible feat of exaggerating the AIDS epidemic in every possible way, to make it more politically correct and bring more money into federal health agency coffers.

No matter how overblown their previous predictions and assertions prove, no matter how good the news to the contrary, they always find a way to make the end of the world seem just around the corner.

Consider the following August headlines: ”U.S. AIDS Findings Cause Concern” (Associated Press); ”AIDS Maintaining Its Grip in U.S.” (San Francisco Chronicle); ”Ill Omen: Decline of AIDS Levels Off” (Atlanta Journal and Constitution); ”Resurgence Feared After Drop in AIDS Deaths” (USA Today); ”A ’Chilling Portrait’ of Failure to Prevent AIDS” (Los Angeles Times).

What you should have read was that the American AIDS epidemic is over.

"This epidemic is no more! It has ceased to be! an ex-epidemic!"

That’s right. To paraphrase a famous Monty Python sketch, ”This epidemic is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker! This is a late epidemic. It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! It’s run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible! This . . . is an ex-epidemic!”

By the modern definition, an epidemic is a disease that surpasses an expected level of cases for a certain length of time. Since previously there were no reported AIDS cases, AIDS certainly qualified as an epidemic from 1981. In 1993 it peaked at 106,000 new cases, then declined yearly, and has now leveled off at a considerably lower rate of about 40,000 cases a year. AIDS is still with us, but it is epidemic no more.

Obviously we’re still getting 40,000 more cases yearly than we’d like. But it’s a safe bet that diseases without a cure that are spread and contracted overwhelmingly by people who put themselves knowingly at risk will continue to persist.

And here’s some good news that anyone can access in the just-released CDC HIV/AIDS annual report (available at:, but that nobody in the media has bothered to tell you:

  • Forget the heterosexual AIDS epidemic. The category of those who so much as claim to have gotten the disease this way comprises over 90 percent of the population but only 11 percent of AIDS cases. In 1993, 9,570 such cases were reported. By 1999 it was down to 7,139 and last year it fell further, to 6,530.
  • Forget the teenage epidemic. Teen cases comprised less than one percent of the total for last year, or 342. This is down from 588 cases in 1993. True, former CDC chief and current Surgeon General David Satcher did tell a credulous Juan Williams at NPR in early July that ”the median age for women getting AIDS today is about 16.” Actually, the median according to the CDC annual report is the 30-34 year-old range. Could he have meant HIV infections, the earliest stage of the disease? No, the median for those is also the 30-34 year-old range.
  • Forget the ”rural AIDS explosion.” Rural cases comprised 14 percent of the total for last year, or 3,061 in number. This is down from 5,809 cases in 1993.
  • Forget all that ”leading cause of death” stuff. AIDS fell off the CDC top 15 list back in 1998. AIDS deaths have declined from a high of over 50,000 in 1995 to about 12,000 per year now. Fewer people died of AIDS last year than any year since 1985.
  • Childhood AIDS is disappearing. The total of pediatric AIDS cases last year was less than 200, compared to 959 in 1993.

Helene Gayle's six years of AIDS political correctness has landed her a cushy job with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

What about this talk of resurgence? In August, the outgoing director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, Helene Gayle, told reporters that infections in heterosexual women are increasing more rapidly than any other group. But the CDC’s numbers show reported female HIV infections attributed to heterosexual contact declined slightly last year, from 2,506 to 2,448. Female AIDS cases attributed to heterosexual contact declined from 4,281 to 3,981, down in turn from 6,253 in 1993. When a decline is the ”most rapid” area of growth, how bad can things be?

Gayle also cited studies indicating that young homosexual males are showing a clear increase in risky behavior. Yet even this bad news is the inevitable result of good news-wisely or not, people are making risk-benefit decisions based on the availability of new therapies. While those drugs have not yet made full-blown AIDS a controllable condition like diabetes, it appears they have done so with HIV infection. Seen Magic Johnson lately? A decade after his diagnosis he’s become a bit pudgy, but otherwise seems no worse for the wear.

A decade since his HIV diagnosis, Magic Johnson is pudgy but otherwise healthy.

Would-be risk-takers probably should think a bit harder about the tremendous costs and sometimes serious side effects of anti-HIV medicines. But they’re apparently assuming that with new therapies coming out all the time, they probably will never get AIDS. And they’re probably right. (For her dedication in providing such useful information for the past six years, Gayle has now been hired by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to direct their AIDS funding activities.)

You CAN find bad news in the CDC report. For example, every year minorities constitute a greater share of the AIDS reaper’s victims. Blacks have about ten times the AIDS rate of whites, Hispanics four times. <p.on the="" other="" hand,="" not="" only="" was="" this="" predictable,="" it="" predicted.="" i="" wrote="" about="" in="">The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS, published eleven years ago. In a book that many stores and one giant chain resolutely refused to stock, I detailed the obsession with portraying the disease as one of heterosexual middle-class whites, and the deadly disinformation spread by politically-correct slogans such as ”Everyone’s at Risk” and ”AIDS Is an Equal Opportunity Destroyer.” </p.on>

”To the extent (government and the media) failed to give minorities much-needed extra attention, they left them in the back of the bus-or the back of a hearse,” I wrote.

I was right. But forgive me if I don’t feel like gloating.