The results of former South African President Thabo Mbeki's AIDS denialism have been nothing short of devastating to South African citizens, resulting in hundreds of thousands avoiding the kind of treatment that could have kept them alive longer or prevented mothers from passing HIV onto their children:
A new study by Harvard researchers estimates that the South African government would have prevented the premature deaths of 365,000 people earlier this decade if it had provided antiretroviral drugs to AIDS patients and widely administered drugs to help prevent pregnant women from infecting their babies.
The Harvard study concluded that the policies grew out of President Thabo Mbeki’s denial of the well-established scientific consensus about the viral cause of AIDS and the essential role of antiretroviral drugs in treating it.
It's hard to figure out whether to be angry or despondent over something like this, especially since it was only two months ago that Mbeki's health minister, who recommended "garlic, lemon juice and beetroot" as treatments for AIDS, was fired. Mbeki claims that, despite overwhelming scientific proof, the HIV Virus does not cause AIDS. Mbeki's designated successor, Jacob Zuma, appears to accept reality, although he's made some questionable comments himself in the past, suggesting that taking a shower after sex reduces the chances of catching the virus (it doesn't).
In this country though, we have another strain of AIDS denialism exemplified by Dennis Prager. This denialism holds that AIDS is a "gay" problem, and so heterosexuals don't have to worry about it. Prager explains that science, like "the media," is subject to a pervasive liberal bias:
Even the natural sciences are increasingly subject to being rendered a means to a “progressive” end. There was the pseudo-threat of heterosexual AIDS in America -- science manipulated in order to de-stigmatize AIDS as primarily a gay man’s disease and to increase funding for AIDS research.
According to the CDC, nearly a third of HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2006 were from high risk heterosexual contact. That is not, by any definition, a "pseudo-threat." The CDC also specifically lists "homophobia" as one of the obstacles to AIDS prevention, and it's easy to see why. If, like Prager, you believe AIDS is something that happens to gay people, then you're more likely to engage in reckless sexual behavior if you're not gay, because, after all, it can't happen to you! It's also easy to see how this kind of thing could result in a denial of one's status and refusal to seek treatment.
As Jesse Taylor pointed out, the desperate need to contradict whatever "liberals" say defies all sense of self-preservation:
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the explanation for every single thing movement conservatives haven’t liked since Reagan. Global warming? Check. Evolution? Check. Labor unions? Check. Underage sex not causing your junk to wither off and die? Check. The Constitution? Check.
We've already seen what AIDS denialism can do in other countries. It's a good thing that the adherents of AIDS denialism on the right were not part of the last Republican Administration, and hopefully they won't be part of any future ones, and instead be relegated to the fringes where they belong. Although given the right's reaction to other inconvenient scientific truths, and the elevation of the opposition to gay rights as a central Republican tenet, it's not hard to see these guys becoming "respectable."
-- A. Serwer
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