restricted access Conclusion (Third Edition)
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Conclusion (Third Edition) In 1986, the year in which Policing Desire was written, there were 298 cases of Aids diagnosed in the Untied Kingdom, and 18,430 cases diagnosed in the United States. Writing in the summer of 1996, there have to date been 12,565 cases of Aids diagnosed in Britain since the beginning of the epidemic, and well over 500,000 cases diagnosed in the USA.1 In Britain there have been almost 9000 deaths from Aids compared to more than 300,000 deaths in the United States. Given that the overall population of America is approximately four to five times that of Britain, the enormous difference in the relative size of the epidemics in the two countries is immediately apparent. In both countries statistics largely reflect the predictions of government scientists in the late 1980s. Thus, whilst the Day Report in 1989 anticipated 1,600 new Aids cases in 1992, there were in fact 1,573. Indeed, most epidemiological projections made since 1989 have been unerringly accurate.2 It should moreover always be noted that Aids statistics on their own provide information which is vital for planning service provision for the already sick, but say little of changing patterns of new HIV infections. Hence the great significance of HIV statistics, which should always be carefully distinguished from Aids figures. Thus in Britain there have been between two and three thousand cases of HIV reported each year since 1990. Of these, 70 per cent are amongst gay and bisexual men, 5 per cent result from injecting drug use, 24 per cent resulting from unprotected heterosexual sex, with just under 1 per cent of paediatric cases. There are considerable regional variations in patterns of infection within individual countries and wider geographical regions, but by and large it is clear that the great majority of HIV and Aids cases throughout the developed world have been amongst gay and bisexual men, and injecting users and their sexual partners. Ten years ago Aids was widely represented in the mass media as a kind of "blessing in disguise", evidence it was claimed of "the truth about a decadent society".' Some Christian and right-wing lobbyists greatly exaggerated the threat to heterosexuals in order to promote their familiar 152 CONCLUSION (THIRD EDITION) pre-Aids agenda, advocating lifelong monogamy as the only permissible form of sexual expression, whilst others on the contrary insisted that this was "only" a problem for injecting drug users and gay men.4 Nothing was too sensational to print. Thus the front-page of The Sunday Express screamed: "Aids 'made in lab' shock", claiming that HIV wasdeliberately created by American scientists working at the headquarters of US Army Research Command.' Meanwhile the News of the World reassured its readers: "Wonder Potion Fights Off Aids: Scientists hail new discovery". 6 Leading doctors counselled caution, but the newspaper editors were unimpressed. By the autumn of 1986 both The Sunday Times and The Observer were presentingAids as a major potential threat to heterosexuals/ Two years later The Mail On Sunday offered its readers a "World Exclusive" - "The Aids Cover-up", claimingthat: "There has been a world-wide cover-up on the immense peril of the Aids epidemic and millions of lives are now needlessly in danger".* Ten years later the reporting of Aids remains equally volatile,unreliable, and uneven. Thus in June 1996 The Independent was able to denounce profiteering claims for a hoax "cure", available in Kenya, whilst only a few days later it cheerfully announced the supposed discovery in China of a "herbal medicine" which "may have killed the virus that causes Aids". 9 In recent years it has become widely fashionable for )ournalists to claim that "too much" is being spent on Aids, by comparison with spending on other diseases. It is also widely claimed that government policies on Aids were shaped by a powerful "Aids lobby", consisting mainly of gay men, who deliberately exaggerated the threat of HIV to heterosexuals in order to obtain funds for fledgling Aids service organisations."' It is however difficult to imagine how even the most spirited and imaginativeconspiracy-theorists can seriously believe that gay men exerted total control over national policy in Britain and the USA in the mid-80s at the very height of the ReaganThatcher ascendancy, as is claimed."In the early years of the epidemic many gay commentators, myself included, pointed out the need for generalist Aids education, at a time when the very possibilityof heterosexual transmission was still widely denied. We...