Pope Alexander VI was cunning. Machiavelli was cunning. Picasso was cunning. I'm now trying to figure out whether Representative Tom Coburn, MD (R-Oklahoma) is cunning. Dr. Coburn is the driving force behind the HIV Prevention Act of 1997 [HR 1067]. AIDS Action Council has provided compelling arguments detailing why such a bill would hinder rather than advance public health interests and I invite our readers to contact them for this information
It is either cunning or ethically naive to press for mandatory HIV testing to identify those with HIV so that their lives can be saved with the latest therapies, which are often denied to the poor. It is also either cunning or ethically naive to call for the federal government to keep records of HIV status and sexual contacts. This is just another variation of William F. Buckley's HIV-status tattoo proposal Dr. Coburn has simply changed the concept to a cybertattoo. Dr. Coburn appears -to be insensitive to other tattoo-related issues, as evidenced by his recent attack on NBC for airing Schindler's List.
Hate mongering in various guises is rampant among hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of people who still harbor the same hatred and fear that has always been part of the human condition Some of the most cunning of the lot disguise their motives by justifying the violation of ethical and human rights principles in the HIV Prevention Act for a false perception of the greater public good. One might think that Dr. Coburn would be more sensitive to the dangers of hate-mongering. Hate-mongering directed against the federal government appears to have contributed to the Oklahoma City tragedy.
Mandatory HIV testing and contact tracing have been proposed for years by well-meaning men and women of integrity as well as bigots with other agendas. While some might assume that prejudice against people with HIV and high-risk lifestyles has disappeared those of us concerned with human rights know otherwise. It is remarkable how much hate mail we receive daily. Here's an e-mail message that arrived on the day I began work on this editorial:
HIV is a condition quite frankly most people bring on themselves. There are those who out of others ignorance contract HIV For them I pray and cry. The others quite frankly though, nobody forced them to act in homosexuality or commit adultery or become drug addicts. They did this on their own. 10 know the risks and chose to act anyway. There are other conditions people have and are still suffering with today that have lost funding because HIV research has taken it away. It is time to stop overfunding HIV research and concentrate on conditions which have and are still killing and causing more people to suffer every day than HIV.
HR 1067 is serving as a rallying call to both bigots and the ethically naive. One wonders if this is a cunning or simply misguided strategy by Dr. Coburn. But as Jack Nicholson's character said in A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth!"