EDITOR'S DESK by Paul Philpott

Fumento Updates Myth of Heterosexual AIDS

The New York Post declined to publish this letter I submitted:

Michael Fumento, author of The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS , correctly stated in a published June 1 letter to the New York Post [also published as Commentary "AIDS Data vs. Hyperbole" in the June 8 Washington Times ] that the true HIV and AIDS risks for drug-free heterosexual Americans fail to justify the hysterical shrieks of "everyone's at risk" issued by our public health officials. Fumento used the recently published 1998 CDC HIV/AIDS Surveillance Year-end Report to show that for yet another year new AIDS cases dropped for all groups, including injection drug-free heterosexuals (of all races and both sexes), and that the number of annual new AIDS cases among this group remains insignificantly tiny, about 9,000 for 1998. For these reasons Fumento argued that AIDS fails to qualify as an urgent public health crisis deserving of the five billion annual tax dollars afforded it.

Rebuttals published June 6 from two beneficiaries of those tax dollars lambasted Fumento for understating the need to regard HIV/AIDS as a national crisis. Both authors, physician Joshua Lipsman of New York's Gay Men's Health Crisis and Patricia Carter of the Harvard AIDS Institute, claimed, for one thing, that the decrease in new AIDS cases resulted from effective new "anti-HIV" drugs produced by the very same public financing decried by Fumento. Were it not for that huge wonder-drug-producing budget, Lipsman and Carter argue, AIDS would indeed rampage through the land.

But according to the CDC reports, the number of new annual AIDS cases began dropping in 1993, and quarterly AIDS deaths started dropping in 1995, before the December 1995 introduction of the new drugs.

Fumento's detractors also pointed out that while new American AIDS cases are declining, instances of infection with HIV -- the presumed cause of AIDS -- are not declining. While it is true that the number of "HIV-positive" Americans remains constant, it has always remained constant, and -- among Americans who deny homosexuality, narcotics injecting, and medicinal-blood exposure -- tiny, at just one per 7,500. When in 1985 the CDC issued its original estimation of one million "HIV-positive" Americans, the agency predicted that figure would quickly rise exponentially, and many millions of Americans would qualify for "HIV-positive" status by 2000. Well, the only change to the annual CDC estimation of "HIV-positive" Americans was a lowering -- to 800,000 -- in 1995.

Carter chided Fumento for "terribly flawed knowledge of epidemiology." If Carter understood epidemiology, she would know that, according to Farr's law, constant and low prevalence means no epidemic and that the microbe is an old resident.