Friday, March 24, 2006

End Taxpayer-Funded HIV Research Now

(Note - You should have seen the hate mail I got for this.)

Commentary by Martin Kelly
February 7, 2005

On January 30, Chris Smith, a former Culture Secretary in Tony Blair’s Cabinet, announced in the London ‘Sunday Times’ that he has been HIV positive for 17 years.

He had not disclosed his condition to Blair. This means that he had also not disclosed it to his local constituency party or, most importantly, to his electorate in Islington.

Smith came out as gay in 1984, the year after his election to Parliament. This announcement comes a matter of weeks before a General Election at which he is standing down.

He said that he did not know when or from whom he contracted the virus. He also said that his continued good health was because of the ‘expert, professional care’ he had received from the National Health Service.

The behaviour of Chris Smith towards his electorate, his party, his leader and the wider British public is amongst the most contemptuous on record from a public servant. And although hard cases make bad law, he is proof of why further taxpayer-funded HIV research has to cease, not just in the UK but everywhere else.

When people live in monogamous, permanent heterosexual relationships where neither party is an injecting narcotics abuser nor received a contaminated blood transfusion, they are at little risk of contracting HIV.

That was not the message with which my generation, the UK teenagers of the mid to late ‘80’s, were bombarded. We were told that HIV was going to explode. It was going to be a pandemic to rival Spanish flu. Hundreds of millions would die.

It didn’t happen, leastwise in societies where the public heeded the message.

The truth is, in societies like the UK and USA, it never was going to happen. The vast majority of our populations’ lifestyles were, and are, HIV-incompatible.

It did explode in Africa. AIDS in Africa is not a stain on the world – it is a stain on those African cultures and superstitions that dictate, for example, that an adult male can protect himself from HIV by sleeping with a virgin. It is a stain on the sexual hygiene of some Africans. The failure of the multicultural West to secure the physical and moral well-being of Africa’s young by not adopting a policy of extremely tough love towards sex education years ago is a stain on those few members of the International Development establishment who have abetted the creation of this giant slow-motion car crash by failing to do their very well-paid jobs. It is not the fault of anyone else.

According to Chris Smith, a cocktail of medicines preserves his health. If he is a patient on the National Health Service, these are provided at the expense of all British taxpayers. Some apologists for Chris Smith will say that he is also a taxpayer, and this is true, although, as an MP, his salary and expenses are paid from taxed money. Some of his apologists would say that his continued treatment at public expense is akin to care given, for example, to smokers who develop lung cancer, or heavy drinkers who then require liver transplants.

But there are critical differences. Firstly, a smoker or drinker may have a physical, perhaps even genetically driven, need for tobacco or alcohol. Promiscuous homosexuals have no such physical need – they have an emotional need, the kind of need that a mature adult should have the self-control to be able to master.

Secondly, a smoker or drinker might not act with conscious disregard for his or her own health. There was a time in Chris Smith’s life when he clearly couldn’t have cared less for what he caught or didn’t catch from whom or how many he slept with, at a time when the dangers of the lifestyle he was living were at the centre of the public eye.

Of course, there are those unfortunate souls who contract HIV by accident, or who have been deliberately infected through their partner’s malicious misrepresentation, or who have been stabbed with dirty needles in the course of being robbed or while trying to effect an arrest, or are so desperate for a high they’ll stick anything in their arm.

But the level of support available for people who find themselves in those grim conditions is staggering, at least in the UK. No more resources should be made available.

The bottom line for amoralists like Chris Smith is that nobody has the right to criticise another person’s lifestyle. God knows, we’ve all done things we’d rather not talk about, and prefer to keep to ourselves. But this argument shutters the door on debate as to which Western groups predominate in the statistics relating to HIV contagion (homosexuals and drug users) and how they catch it (by deliberately refusing to take very simple and well-publicised precautions).

This is not an issue which should divide liberal from conservative, not one about privacy or sexual freedom, and it’s an issue which will come to the fore with a vengeance when the true cost of Medicare starts to kick in.

This is an issue that goes to the heart of the nature of the relationship between citizens. For the most part, HIV is a disease contracted through irresponsibility. If a citizen will not take regard for their own health, why should other citizens invest in its preservation and improvement?

Certainly, let HIV research continue, but not with public money.