Rotello and HIV

Readers have asked me to address a central point in Gabriel Rotello’s argument: that if we had sustained the levels of fear after the retroviral drug breakthrough in 1996, we might have reduced HIV to a sliver and even ended it altogether. This is epidemiologically highly dubious, but let’s pretend it’s valid. I guess there are two points to make. If sustaining fear meant hiding or concealing the astonishing turn-around in HIV treatment, then no ethical journalist should have done so (though many did). Getting the news out about hope in HIV care was and is essential to saving lives. Repressing such news – for fear of breeding complacency – essentially tries to sacrifice an existing sick population for a future HIV-free world. In 1996, I felt the need to tell the truth about the miraculous turn-around, but also an ethical obligation to reach as many sick gay men as possible with the good news. Many had given up; many didn’t know new treatments could save them. I’m proud I helped spread the news. I know the essay saved lives. To accuse me of fomenting HIV when my goal was to help many men survive is deeply unfair. I watched a friend who refused to believe in the good news die in front of me. It scarred me and made me determined to reach others.

The War on Drugs, The War On Terror

A reader writes:

I’m sure you realize that you could re-write your recent post "Do Republicans Get The Terror Threat?" almost word-for-word, substituting "war on drugs" for "war on terror". Amazingly predictable parallels. "Do Republicans Get the Drug Threat?" No. "Do Republicans Get The Terror Threat?" As you make so abundantly clear, no. Tragic paradoxes, indeed.    The question now is, why? Why don’t they get it? The answer, I think, is quite simple: the Republicans – especially now that they are the party of the American Christian fundamentalist movement – are not interested in reality. They’re interested in their echo-chamber, their self-reinforcing, self-congratulatory, self-protective ideological bubble. A human trait, granted, and a political trait, left and right – but now that the Republican Party is the Christianist Party, a defining and deadly dangerous trait. What matters now is not performance, or practicality, but rigid adherence to ideological purity – even if that "purity" results in reinforcing the very behavior it is meant to suppress. This adherance to ideological purity is a form of quasi-religious hysteria (and maybe not so quasi). It is, as you say, ultimately tragic – tragic for those caught in the cross-fire, tragic in that it makes very real problems much worse than they need to be, tragic in that it wastes our resources and drags us backwards, tragic in that it keeps us locked in endless, unwinnable battles with the very things we loathe and fear. We’re turning ourselves into zombies.


I watched Ann Coulter last night in the gayest way I could. I was on a stairmaster at a gym, slack-jawed at her proud defense of calling someone a "faggot" on the same stage as presidential candidates and as an icon of today’s conservative movement. The way in which Fox News and Sean Hannity and, … Continue reading Faggot

AIDS At 25

The anniversary is American – and a little arbitrary. It was 25 years ago yesterday that the CDC reported two deaths from a form of pneumocystis that turned out to be a consequence of HIV. What has happened since cannot be summarized, because there are, in fact, dozens of HIV epidemics around the world today, … Continue reading AIDS At 25


I spent the first several years of my life speaking an impenetrable patois of Bengali and Brooklynese; my desperate pleas for food or water were answered only by puzzled expressions and, in time, utter indifference. That I survived is a minor miracle. That I remain incomprehensible is a minor tragedy. Kevin Drum writes, “I guess … Continue reading SALAM-ESE


Sorry to continue about this, but I just got sent the following transcript of a press conference by Larry Speakes, presidential spokesman, on October 15, 1982. It speaks for itself: Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic … Continue reading REAGAN AND AIDS