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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Tennessee Senator: It's Virtually Impossible for Heterosexuals to Contract HIV From Sex

By Kellee Terrell

February 2, 2012

Another day, another opportunity for our elected officials to completely expose themselves for being entirely out of touch with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country.

Recently, state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) from Tennessee has found himself at the center of a media firestorm because of some erroneous comments he made about HIV transmission on Sirius Radio's Michelangelo Signorile Show. He said that "homosexuality is harmful" and that the HIV epidemic came from a single gay airline employee having "sexual relations" with a monkey.

"My understanding -- and correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Science, on this, but my understanding is also, it is virtually -- not completely impossible, it's virtually impossible to contract AIDS, outside of blood transfusions, through heterosexual sex. It's virtually impossible."

Obviously, he doesn't read TheBody.com. If he did, he might have a clue as to what is going on in the real world when it comes to the makeup of theHIV/AIDS community and what is fueling the epidemic in this country.

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Campfield, you seem to be stuck in 1982. Please join me in the present.

Just last week researchers from the University of Washington found that by analyzing mixed-status couples in Africa, a person living with HIV will transmit the virus, on average, once out of every 900 acts of unprotected heterosexual sex. And, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heterosexual women in the U.S. account for 23 percent of all newly-diagnosed cases each year and most of those transmissions occurred from heterosexual sex. And while women are biologically more vulnerable to contract HIV from a male partner, men can, even though the chance is lower, still contract HIV from women.

Naturally, many AIDS advocates and public health officials have called Campfield out for his archaic and uninformed comments. He did attempt to backtrack a bit, telling a reporter from Knoxville's NBC affiliate that he knows straight people can contract HIV, but that gay men are more at risk. But instead of clearing up any "misunderstandings," in Mitt Romney fashion, he ended up putting his foot right back in his mouth.

WBIR reported:

"A lot of people trying to gloss over and say it's an every person disease but really it's just those high risk people that are most likely to contract or spread that disease. The odds of a regular man getting it from a regular woman are very low," he said.

We asked, "What do you mean by 'regular?'"

He said, "Someone who is not from Africa, someone who is not a homosexual, someone who is not an IV drug user, someone who is not sleeping with someone who is one of those things."

Senator Campfield sees nothing wrong with his answers.

"I didn't say I was a gay/AIDS historian. I didn't say I know the facts backwards and forwards I just said what I've heard and the facts back me up," he said.

While it's obvious that this man is clearly ignorant, he isn't just any man. He is a powerful politician whose state has a growing HIV epidemic: Recent U.S. census data found that Nashville ranks 22 on a list of U.S cities with the highest HIV rates. And we can safely assume that his personal beliefs about this disease will and have influenced the HIV/AIDS policies that he puts forth in his very own state. This is potentially dangerous not only for people who are living with HIV/AIDS in Tennessee, but for people who are HIV negative.

After all, let's not forget that this is the same man who just last year co-sponsored the "Don't Say Gay" bill that would make it illegal for teachers to discuss sexuality other than heterosexuality in classrooms that included students under the ninth grade.

In an interesting twist to this story, it's being reported that this past Sunday, Campfield attempted to have brunch at The Bistro at the Bijou in Knoxville, but Martha Boggs, the owner and manager, met him at the door and let him know that he was not wanted.

The Huffington Post reported:

"On Sunday, Mr. Campfield came in for brunch," she explained ... "I had been following some of the comments that he'd been making on The Huffington Post and read about him in the [Knoxville] News-Sentinel. And while he's always been controversial, he's crossed the line from being controversial to being dangerous."

Boggs said she was angry and moved to action. "I was incensed that an elected official could make such irresponsible comments," she says, noting that "quite a bit" of the restaurant's customers are from the LGBT community as are friends and employees of hers.

"I saw him at the front door and there was just something that made me decide to not serve him, just to make a point to him [about] how awful he has been," she explained. "I told him he wasn't welcome here and I wanted him to leave. He was waiting to be seated and I walked up to him and told him to leave. I was kind of mad, so I don't really remember everything. He left graciously enough."

Tell Sen. Campfield what you think about his recent remarks about HIV/AIDS!

Email him at sen.stacey.campfield@capitol.tn.gov, call him at (615) 741-1766 or send him a letter at the following addresses:

2011 Flagler
Knoxville, TN 37912

Nashville address

301 6th Ave. N
Suite 4 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.


Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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See Also
More HIV Prevention Policy News on the U.S. South
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Reader Comments:

Comment by: NegativeHetero (Seattle, Wa) Wed., May. 16, 2012 at 3:28 pm EDT

I study and read medical litterature and have not seen anything that points to anything but a very unlikely risk fo transmision. it is also postulated that the vaginal fluids are protective to infections, in comparison to the rectal mucosa, whicha ctually facillitates uptake of the virus.

otherwise, one also have to do some critical investigation into people who are hetersexual and if they have still been practicing anal sex.

He's nto the only one saying this. I think the last word is not out yet. may be true, may be more uncertain as it is now.
Reply to this comment


Comment by: Diane (New York, NY) Wed., Apr. 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm EDT
He should say that to the faces of us who are wives and living with HIV because of our husband's many secrets. We are victims of their lies and infidelity and live in the shadows and ignorant comments from him and others like him just push us further into the shadows. It's bad enough we have no voice because we are the last ones people think of when they think of HIV and now he is taking away our last shred of dignity in the face of devastated lives.
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Comment by: Robert H (Flint, Mi) Sat., Apr. 14, 2012 at 8:27 am EDT
Just what was so incorrect about his statement?

Fact: It is virtually IMPOSSIBLE for a man to contract hiv through vaginal intercourse.

Sometimes facts are harsh. Sometimes facts are not convenient. Sometimes facts are downright mean. But... They are still facts.
Reply to this comment
Replies to this comment:
Comment by: teapot (nyc) Mon., Apr. 16, 2012 at 11:06 am EDT
... and yet, somehow, people's fervent belief that men cannot become HIV positive from unprotected vaginal sex with HIV-positive women DOESN'T actually protect men from becoming HIV positive through unprotected vaginal sex with HIV-positive women, because they still can, and do, despite strong beliefs to the contrary, and that is a fact. statistically less likely does not mean impossible!
Comment by: Robert H (Flint, Mi) Wed., Apr. 18, 2012 at 8:17 am EDT
Statistically HIGHLY unlikely. In fact, virtually impossible. The hiv community is being disingenuous and reduces its credibility by omitting this information. The way Mr. Campfield has been chastised by the hiv community for daring to utter the truth speaks volumes.


Comment by: Brooke Davidoff (Seattle, WA) Mon., Feb. 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm EST
Wow just Wow! Maybe he wants to pay my medical bills and all the other straight people who have HIV/AIDS.

"The odds of a regular man getting it from a regular woman are very low."

Yea that's what I thought until I tested POSITIVE for it. With people like him leading the country NO wonder straight people don't have a voice in the media letting each other know they ARE AT RISK.
Reply to this comment
Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Diane (New York, NY) Wed., Apr. 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm EDT
Saw your comment after I wrote mine. I wish he was right as I sit here a 15 year survivor after finding out in 1997 that I had been infected by my husband of then 12 years. This is the ignorance that keeps us in the shadows.


Comment by: alive2 (upstate ny) Tue., Feb. 7, 2012 at 8:43 am EST
wow, and this is someone whos in a representitive role for his people? this is crazy, it goes to show us all that, even if they are in a position to help they cant, afterall the misconception on this is truely amazing. is it any wonder those that can help dont? if the people whoi weild the power to help dont really know what it is they are talking about, how can they understand exactly what we deal with on a daily basis? how can they really do anything to help if their own knowledge is full of myth and biased toward those who are trapped in certain situations. this is certainly a perfect article showing that those with hiv/aids cant get a fair shake in life when the elected officials open there pie holes and spew something they should know about before they comment. im one of THOSE people, who has to feel down about this, people of this ilk are all around, i just didnt think in this day in age an elected official can be so ignorant to this health issue.
this makes me wonder how many people in this country, and worldwide beleive this. im really glad he doesnt represent me. but i feel bad for those of his constituates whom he does represent.
this also makes me glad there is such a large amount of information on this, maybe he should talk to the medical personnel in his closed mindeed world. how can we stop the discrimination towards us when politicians still dont really know what and how this virus works? answer we wont untill all the myths are quashed and informative information is known. truth is maybe this will be something his area of expertise will be given a dose of reality to. as a hiv positive person, im glad when people bring themselves into the fray due to ignorance, now he will be bombarded with the facts, stir the soup and see what pops up. i worry only for those his belefs hurt or keep from medications due to his look at reality, and lack of knowledge.
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Comment by: michael (los angeles) Tue., Feb. 7, 2012 at 8:14 am EST
the sad thing is, a very good portion of the people who heard his message will believe this.

this is one of those times when i truly wish for irony.
Reply to this comment


Comment by: Jason D (Delaware) Sun., Feb. 5, 2012 at 9:38 am EST
I did email that senator a message. What an idiot! It's not so bad that he doesn't like homosexuals, to each his own, but to spread his stupidity is just wrong! Who coaches this guy on the crap that comes out of his trap? I tried to read through and see his perspective but there are just too many things that this guy is saying that just doesn't make sense and is hugely offensive to anyone! I would love to hear how some of the TN folks respond to this. How can they allow this guy to represent him. Kudos to the woman who turned that idiot away from her establishment, you're my hero!
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Comment by: Eric B. (New York, NY) Fri., Feb. 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm EST
I'm guessing that he is someone who doesn't think that funding should go towards vaccination or finding a cure, and is taking this position because he'd rather see the money redirected towards other things.
Reply to this comment


Comment by: Larry Frampton (Knoxville, TN) Fri., Feb. 3, 2012 at 5:10 pm EST
I did a interview with our Knoxville paper about Stacy Campfield and how his remarks damages our efforts as HIV Educators and Testers. I have already heard people in the community tell me they don't need to test for HIV because Senator Campfield said it was virtually impossiple for heterosexuals to get infected. Even after myself and the Health Department Director reported his facts were wrong and dangerous he said he stands by his comments. If he was concerned about the people in his district he would have admitted he was wrong on his facts and corrected his mistake.
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Comment by: Anonymous Fri., Feb. 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm EST
'if you are not from Africa!!!' this is racism
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