Published in The Arizona Republic on January 25, 1993
In his letter of January 7, Joel Tranchina fulminates against the "dirt ignorant fundamentalist crackpots" in the Bush administration who "failed to recognize the danger inherent in HIV and refused to respond appropriately to the ever-growing plague of AIDS."
The Bush administration has committed myriad blunders, but it can hardly be blamed for the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Even though AIDS is not even among the 10 most deadly diseases in America, research on AIDS gets more federal funding than research on any other disease.
Diatribes such as Mr. Tranchina's have come to represent a sort of secular daily homily on how only more federal action can stop the spread of AIDS. The truth is that 95 percent of all AIDS cases result from voluntary -- mostly sexual -- activity. Not even the most intrusive government can stop people from engaging in such behavior.
It does not follow, though, that we should refrain from making judgments about sex and educating people about the risks inherent in various forms of sex. We cannot force people to stop overeating, smoking, or consuming alcohol, but no one ridicules the aggressive campaigns we wage to educate people about the dangers of overindulgence in these areas. Most opponents of the drug war do not promote drug use as being risk-free.
Yet even the slightest hint that people should restrain their sexual appetites often prompts endless ridicule of the person doing the hinting. In fact, many millions of tax dollars each year go to agencies that think it a waste of time to tell teenagers to "just say no" to sex.
Only a small percentage of people with human immunodeficiency virus and AIDS -- people such as Arthur Ashe and the late Kimberly Bergalis -- can be considered victims. The rest have brought these dreadful maladies upon themselves. Magic Johnson deserves at least some credit for attributing his affliction to his own recklessness.
If more people with HIV and AIDS had done this from the very beginning, this disease would not have become epidemic, and those who suffer from it would receive a lot more of the compassion they deserve.
Douglas F. Newman
Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman
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