Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sad numbers prove Religious Right wrong.

Sadly, one of the dominant features of the Religious Right today is their unabashed tendency to lie to the public in order to promote their own agenda. Even when the facts are documented and easily discoverable, or even pointed out to them, they deny them and continue with their lies. When falsehoods are repeated, even when evidence proves them false, then the issue is honesty, not error.

You may remember the Republican state senator from Tennessee, Stacey Campfield, who went into a little rant about how only gays get AIDS and that they caught it from having sex with a monkey and infected the heterosexual community. This was all invented by his hateful, little mind. In fact, none of that is true. He also said that it is almost impossible for heterosexuals to contract the disease. Here are some sad statistics from the good people at the South African Institute of Race Relations.

The population of South Africa is just under 50 million, but the round figure will do. The United States, in comparison is about 311.6 million. South Africa has approximately 5.58 million HIV infections while the significantly larger United States has 1.1 million cases. The population of the US is 6.2 times larger than that of South Africa, yet their HIV infection rate is 5 times larger.

Who is it that suffers from HIV in South Africa? As is often the case, it is mostly women and children. The SAIRR says that 53% of the cases in South Africa are among women ages 15 t0 49. Now, you have to understand that HIV infection as a result of sexual contact between women is extremely difficult. It isn't impossible, but it is very, very unlikely. These women contracted the disease from men, and not from gay men. About 8% of all victims are children under the age of 14 years old. The vast majority of them were born infected because their mothers were infected.

Only about 0.6% of all HIV cases are in North America (Canada, the US, and Mexico combined). In Western Europe the infection rate is close around 0.2%. These are the parts of the world where the gay community was hit hardest—and they are also the parts of the world with some of the lowest infection rates around. There are an estimated 34 million people, world-wide, with HIV—and about 67% of those cases are in Subsaharan Africa. In the West the total number of infections is about 2.1 million, a fraction of those cases. And while South and South-East Asia has relatively low infection rates they account for 4 million cases, more than double those in Europe and North America.

Of course, not even all those 1.1 million cases in America are among gay men. Of the 1.1 million Americans with HIV about 300,000 are women. Again, they caught the disease by heterosexual contact (66%) or sharing infected needles (32%) during drug use. That leaves around 800,000 men with HIV infections. It is estimate that 488,000 men contracted HIV through gay sex. Another 80,000 might have, but were also injection drug users which is a more potent means of infection. About 232,000 were men who contracted the disease either through needle usage or heterosexual sex. So, even in the United States, where HIV hit the gay community early on, most of the infections are among heterosexuals, not homosexuals.

And, in those areas of the world with higher infections rates than our own, the overwhelming majority of cases are due to heterosexual infections. In those countries infections among heterosexuals is significantly higher than in the United States. Given that most the worlds infections are in those countries, and given that a significantly higher percentage of them are among heterosexuals, this means that the percentage of HIV infection caused through homosexual contact, worldwide, is relatively small—far smaller than it is the United States.

These are all sad numbers. It really shouldn't matter who is infected, or how they are infected. HIV remains a crisis for the world and is killing millions of people. What is sadder is how the Religious Right distorts the numbers to try to convince the public that hating homosexuals is somehow a rational thing because of the tiny percentages of HIV cases in the US, the majority of whom are heterosexuals.

What is really awful, if you pause to think about it, is that the disinformation that these religious kooks spread about HIV actually gives people a false perception of the risks. And, if they buy into the "hate the homosexual" message that these fanatics are pushing, and assume that most HIV victims are "evil gays" then the response to this crisis will be far less than what it should be. If these Christians come to believe that most HIV victims are gay men, and are thus less inclined to want to help end the crisis, the people who suffer as a result will be overwhelmingly heterosexual.

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