Prominent in the repertoire of tactics for spreading fear of AIDS within the general U.S. public has been to trumpet the claim that AIDS in Africa is caused primarily by heterosexual sex. In March 1993, AIDS speaker Khepra NuRa Khem, employed by Planned Parenthood, was hosted by the University of Oklahoma. At the event he distributed a flyer which created the impression that it was about the American population, since it cited the U.S. CDC as its source of information.1 Among the claims on the flyer were these:
"Sex between men and women is the most common cause of HIV infection."
"More than 1 million people contracted HIV in 1992, 90% through heterosexual intercourse."
Neither claim is justified, but the second one is a glaring outrage. In 1993, the official CDC estimate was that there were only 1 million Americans infected since the virus was believed to have started spreading in the late 70s.2 The underlying basis for these claims was his reliance upon officially-promoted disinformation about Africa. The party line about heterosexual AIDS in Africa is generally stated in this fashion: "since it is happening there, it can happen also in the USA." For numerous reasons, this should not be taken seriously. One fact to consider is that homosexuality is not out in the open in most African societies, and for this reason official statistics conceal the true extent to which male-to-male sex accounts for HIV transmission. Those who engage in homosexual behavior are not likely to admit it.
Khepra NuRa Khem offered his audience the opinion that there is no such thing as "safe sex," but that some behaviors are "less risky" than others. He included "shared erotic fantasy" on his list of "less risky" options. Upon questioning, he failed to explain how shared erotic fantasy could perform as a transmission path for HIV. Presumably, those hearing his message are expected always to include condoms in their shared erotic fantasies, and to limit their number of partners for such activities.
In 1990 I was told by a public health physician from Zaire that there was no homosexuality in his nation's capital. This denial is useful only for explaining why heterosexual sex is officially blamed for African AIDS. Without reliable survey data about the extent to which anal intercourse is practiced in Africa by homosexuals and heterosexuals, there is no basis for concluding that vaginal sex has been a significant HIV transmitter on that continent.
Official AIDS information brochures sometimes claim that open sores and lesions caused by other untreated sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can facilitate the entry of HIV into the bloodstream. If vaginal sex is a true significant transmitter of HIV in Africa, an important underlying cause would be found in the insufficient treatment of other STDs associated with general conditions of poverty and poorly developed public health services.
In 1988 Robert Gould, a psychiatrist and faculty member of the New York Medical College, addressed the African situation by describing such practices as surgical excision of the clitoris and sewing up the vaginas of young girls to ensure chastity. This mutilation permanently weakens and scars the genital tissues, and leads to tearing and lacerations during intercourse. The result facilitates the direct entry of semen into the bloodstream. He also pointed out that blood transfusions are not screened in Africa and anal sex is used as a method of contraception. "In addition," he wrote, "50% of the African men who have contracted AIDS also have venereal disease." 3
Other critics say that AIDS in Africa is simply a new name for old diseases endemic to Africa and accounted for by such factors as poverty, malnutrition, inadequate delivery of health services, and deficient public sanitation. African officials rely upon the World Health Organization AIDS definition, which does not even require an HIV test.4 The extremely flexible WHO definition is merely a list of "signs and symptoms" such as weight loss, diarrhea, and fever.
An African patient can become an AIDS statistic if (1) a doctor notices "two major signs associated with at least one minor sign," and (2) he chooses not to attribute the illness to other causes such as cancer or severe malnutrition. African physicians usually don't make this choice. The reason, as pointed out by Celia Farber describing her findings from a trip to Africa, is that every diagnosed AIDS case converts to money in the hands of African health agencies.5 Financial assistance for AIDS is distributed to different countries by WHO on a capitation basis: more cases attract more dollars.
In the British Medical Journal, Charles Gilks reported his study of case histories diagnosed as AIDS in Nairobi. His conclusion was that only 30% of them would be considered AIDS cases by CDC criteria in the US. He also concluded that the WHO definition was "inherently unworkable and incorrect." 6 The application of this definition in Africa has provided major support for the construction of the fraudulent statistics used to frighten heterosexual Americans.