Readers’ Thoughts

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Andriote on AIDS: 2 Pro’s and a Con

To the Editor:

The article by John-Manuel Andriote in your last issue [Sept.-Oct. 2012], titled “Reclaiming HIV as a Gay Disease,” is exceedingly important for everyone to see. So far as I know, Andriote is the only one with guts enough to say this truth so boldly. If you have a link to it, you must publish it and everyone must send it out to the four corners of the globe. [The article is posted as free content on the website at GLReview.com].

The garbage that was enunciated at the opening session of the just completed International AIDS Conference [in Washington, DC, July 22–27]must be confronted with such real truths as Andriote presents here. These are people who should know better, whipping us all into a frenzy by claiming that we are about to enter an AIDS-free world, if only we all can just work together, and on and on. All this talk caused the great science writer Laurie Garrett to exclaim, “What are they smoking?!”

Thanks to Mr. Andriote for the article and to the GLR for publishing it.

Larry Kramer, New York City

To the Editor:

Congratulations to the GLR and John Manuel Andriote on the extremely important, brave, and timely essay, “AIDS is Still a Gay Disease.” This is far and away the most extensive and lucid document to date of the current and appalling failure of leadership on AIDS prevention and resource allocation in the GLBT community and otherwise nationally.

As for the even bigger picture, if an essay like this needed to be written for this country now, what would an accurate assessment of the incidence, prevalence, and impact of gayness on AIDS globally look like, to say nothing of the issue of the allocation of AIDS resources for GLBT

cohorts? For those of us who think we have the bigger picture of what may well turn out to be the greatest epidemic in recorded history, Andriote’s essay reminds us that we are constantly losing focus and direction.

Thanks again for another singular, distinguished, and outstanding contribution by John Manuel Andriote to the annals
of AIDS.

Lawrence D. Mass, MD, New York City

To the Editor:

When the hiv/aids epidemic erupted exclusively in gay and bisexual men in 1981, it certainly seemed to be a “gay” disease. However, within months, cases of the new disease turned up in other populations, and it was clear that various non-gay people were affected. Since that time, or soon thereafter, AIDS educators have worked hard to convince the public that AIDS is not a gay disease. It is not gay sex per se that causes HIV infection; it is unprotected sex with an infected partner.

Now John-Manuel Andriote, in “Reclaiming HIV as a Gay Disease,” wants to go back to a time when gay men and their sexual habits were blamed for importing and spreading this dread disease in the U.S. Andriote must know that homophobes still blame AIDS on gay men. Furthermore, his essay title is not correct, scientifically speaking. AIDS is a virus, not a disease. HIV, however, is the accepted cause of AIDS.

It is of course true that AIDS still disproportionately affects gay men. He cites a government statistic showing that “Gay men account for 48 percent of the more that one million people living with HIV in the U.S., an estimated 532,000 men.” However, this statistic also suggests that 52 percent of people currently living with HIV are not gay men. Surely, this is proof that HIV/AIDS is not a “gay disease.”

I realize that Andriote wants to call attention to the continuing special needs of infected gay men, particularly poor and minority men, in terms of HIV testing and their ability to get medical care and access to highly expensive HIV drugs. Few people can afford this without good medical insurance and financial assistance. All this at a time when interest in the epidemic
and AIDS fund-raising are waning in our community.

Although Andriote’s intentions are admirable, his idea for the community to reclaim AIDS as a gay disease, indeed as a “distinctly ‘gay’ problem,” is not only bad science but would serve to prove that homophobes were right all along in their unfair condemnation of gay men for causing this epidemic. Surely the community can continue its activism and fight AIDS without resorting to such a badly conceived idea.

Alan Cantwell, MD (retired), Los Angeles

Praise for the HRC Is Misplaced

To the Editor:

In response to Barney Frank’s assertion [in the Sept.-Oct. 2012 issue]that Barack Obama is the most pro-gay president may be true—or so the account has been scripted by the narrow view of the Human Rights Campaign. I see human rights, civil liberties and civil rights within a wider perspective.

For example, given the organization’s name, the fact that the HRC failed to take a position against the Patriot Act is bizarre. The Patriot Act, the greatest threat to civil liberties in 200 years, did not receive a public hearing when the Democrats controlled the Senate in 2001. The HRC has contributed millions of dollars to Democratic candidates. Yet Russ Feingold, former Wisconsn Senator, was the lone dissenter in the Senate. There was a handful of no votes in the House, including those of Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, and Barney Frank, among a few others. Only Ron Paul in this last election cycle proposed repealing it.

Obama promised to repeal the Patriot Act in 2008 but instead he renewed it. I’d give Obama a mediocre score on a wider view of civil liberties.

Phil Willkie, Minneapolis

Re Rubinstein: Remember Ravel

To the Editor:

I enjoyed Martha Stone’s informative “art memo” in the new issue [Sept.-Oct. 2012], in which she profiles Ida Rubinstein, a pioneering ballet dancer and impresario who was the lover of Romaine Brooks, among other women. What she didn’t mention is that it was Rubinstein who commissioned Maurice Ravel’s Boléro (in which she also performed), a major work in the Western musical canon.

Conrad Brewster, Kansas City, MO

Percy Family’s Honor Restored

To the Editor:

This is to correct two errors that appeared in my review of Benjamin Wise’s William Alexander Percy in the July-August issue. First, it was not Norman Douglas’ friends who were so prominent as part of a New York literary circle, but my uncle Will’s. Second, Wise, like his mentor Wyatt-Brown, who even compared the two branches of the family—the Percys of Louisiana and the Percys of Mississippi—to the Adamses and the Lees, did not “generally” admire, but instead “genuinely” admired, my family.

William A. Percy III, Boston

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