Andrew Sullivan and the HIV debate - Where mortal illness, celebrity and identity politics collide

Over the past two days, Andrew Sullivan has posted a series of items and e-mails in relation to what may be a deteroration in his HIV status.

Sullivan can be a capricious, wilful character whose constant push for the full legalisation of gay marriage has led him to say very tactless and distasteful things. Clearly a spiritual man, he has found it very difficult to reconcile his sexual instincts with his Roman Catholicism - in this, one can offer him no succour or words of support. Unfortunately, in that matter there is no middle ground.

Yet in an age in which the defining character of conservatism seems to be pitilessness, he is deserving of great sympathy, as what he is sharing has the potential to be dreadful news. Full disclosure is appropriate - I am the guy who wrote both 'The Pastor's Off to Jail' and 'End Taxpayer-Funded HIV Research Now'. The religious right's apparent obsession with homosexuality has a direct parallel in Catholicism's apparent obsession with sex before marriage - no Catholic issues seem to exist other than those relating to sex and sexuality. The attitude of the American religious right towards HIV and AIDS seems almost bi-polar, condemning HIV-prone groups (gays) at home while voting heavily for a president who has committed the USA to giving $15 billion in aid to combat AIDS in Africa. Go figure.

HIV has been a humanitarian catastrophe in all groups prone to infection. However, in these posts Sullivan has displayed a brutal honesty towards the factors that help perpetuate the spread of HIV. In one of these posts, dated May 23, entitled, 'The Changing Climate', he writes,

"First off, my new med regimen may well amount to a mere two pills once a day. Just two pills. By this fall, the drug companies will have simplified the regimen to one pill once a day. The side-effects are predicted to be minimal (I'll keep you posted). Compared with what we pozzies were taking in the mid-1990s, this is an astonishing improvement. I was once taking up to 40 pills a day with crippling side effects. The broader point: Yet another disincentive to getting HIV has evaporated. How are you supposed to scare people when the treatment is this simple, this effective and this easy? ",

and then goes on to compare the treatment available to an HIV sufferer very favourably with the regimen endured by a diabetic.

This is a telling observation. Clearly, the development and production of HIV treatments remains a medical research priority, which seems odd when those demographics most prone to HIV infection, gays and intravenous drug abusers, are historically low in numbers. HIV is undoubtedly a killer; but so are many other diseases, such as diabetes. Such a high and sustained level of investment in HIV research reeks of politics, whether it be the politics of pressure-group sexuality or the politics generated by sustained media interest in AIDS charities patronised by celebrities such as Dame Elizabeth Taylor.

On May 24, Sullivan continued with this post, entitled 'HIV Now', and linked to this critique of his earlier comments by another HIV-positive blogger, Joe Perez, whose experiences of HIV seem to have been very much darker than Sullivan's. However, in his 'HIV Now' post, Sullivan quotes from an e-mail received from another HIV sufferer - their remarks strike straight down to the root cause of HIV's continued spread.

His correspondent wrote,

"The scare tactics didn't do much for me any more; all I had was a vague moral sense that using condoms was the right thing to do. And let's face it, even the most conservative of us gay men instinctively repels just a little bit at the sense of external moral threats".

The operative words are 'us gay men' - an expression of identity politics as clear as any word from the mouths of Louis Farrakhan or David Duke.

In his obituary of Sam Francis, the British-born racial nationalist Peter Brimelow remarked that,

"With the end of the Cold War, he emerged as a type of white nationalist, defending the interests of the community upon which the historic United States was, as a matter of fact, built. This position, of course, is as legitimate as Black nationalism, Hispanic nationalism, or Zionism. It is, indeed, the inevitable result of multiculturalism that is being imported through public policy."

It would seem that gay identity politics are in the same league - although none of the other expressions of multiculturalism-based identity politics have had such widespread and lethal consequences for its adherents.

HIV exploded shortly after gay identity politics came to the fore. The first was not an inevitable consequence of the second - however, the second was clearly the facilitator of the first.

There may no doubt be some who read this and scream "anti-homosexual bigot!"; if they do that, I'll be happy to quote them what I wrote in 'The Pastor's Off to Jail', that,

"...his crime was to say from the pulpit that he regards homosexuality as an illness like cancer. One doesn’t agree with that belief. If homosexual acts are carried out in private by consenting adults over the age of 21 and not for the sake of prostitution, then the state has no business in the matter. "

and then I'll happily point them in the direction of more than one real one. But it is just so sad to realise that so many, many men, young and old, may have died because of the flowering of identity politics, rooted in Marxism.

What a sad epitaph for the latter-half of the 20th Century, in many ways the best time ever to have been alive.


Blogger GayLikeAFox said...

Good article. Very moving.

8:19 PM  

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