HIV: Get it and then we’ll talk

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, June 12, 2008 0:16 EDT
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In case there’s any doubt, this should put it to rest: Tom Coburn is a giant fucking asshole godbag who probably gets a sadistic glee thinking of people suffering. To put some perspective on this, the constant battle on earmarking HIV relief funds is between treatment and prevention. Experts generally like to see the larger chunk go to prevention, because statistically it just saves more lives. (I know; I’m wildly simplifying. This is a blog post, not a doctoral thesis.) You can buy a lot of condoms for what a day’s worth of HIV drugs costs, and prevent a whole lot of transmission. But there’s not even a need to twist into moral pretzels about these hard choices, since the bill in question is an expansion of funding that was already there.

So why has broad bipartisan legislation seeking to more than triple the program’s funding to $50 billion caused such a rancorous fight?

Coburn and six other Senators are blocking the bill until the prevention money is redirected, though. Their reason? In sum: Look over there!

The Oklahoma Republican, along with six other social conservatives, has put a hold on the bill in the Senate, unless a provision is added to direct most of the spending toward treatment for HIV/AIDS rather than toward prevention and other priorities. Otherwise, Coburn said, “the vast majority of the money is going to get consumed by those wanting to help people with HIV, rather than [by] people with HIV.”

In other words, he’s going to lie until you get confused and quit asking. There’s no reason to think that condom distribution and sex education are graft-heavy areas compared to handing out HIV drugs, unless you’re a psychotic sex-phobe. “They want people to have safe sexual encounters! They must be the sort of evil people who steal aid money and spend it on coke and hookers!” Which makes no sense, because grafting fans of coke-and-hookers are 75% Republicans back home.

No, you can tell this is about Teh Sex, and specifically about making sure that people who have it get punished by contracting HIV. And it’s purely about Teh Sex, and not about some sort of sex-phobe “moderate” stance where it’s okay to do it if you’re married—after all, in the most HIV-ravaged parts of the world, women’s risk of contracting the disease goes up when they marry. Coburn probably thinks he’s a prince because he’s willing to help people after they’ve “learned” their lesson about Teh Sex by contracting a fatal disease. But depriving people of the punishment for sex (which god supposedly invented)? Hells no.

This has all the hallmarks of the sex-phobic reaction. 1) Tom Coburn. 2) It’s Tom fucking Coburn. 3) Like all good anti-choice nuts, he’s willing to peddle lies that sound kind of science-y, to throw you off his scent.

Coburn argues that treatment of HIV/AIDS-affected individuals usually drops their viral load to the point where they will not infect other people, and thus, it’s “the No. 1 prevention protocol we have.”

Pop quiz: Say we get lucky and for some reason we get one chance to have someone with HIV fuck Tom Coburn up the ass. He has two options: Use a condom or let the guy take HIV meds for a month ahead of time. Which one do you think he’d pick? Remember, he’s a doctor, so he’s not likely to unaware of the relative risks or how to find out about them.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we subject people to sexual assault to prove a political point. We can only speculate. Luckily, I think most of us can guess correctly as to which Coburn—who does like being alive—would pick. But he’s not willing to extend that same courtesy to the nations that receive HIV aid from the U.S.

The whole situation is really frustrating, because you have all these sex-phobic, moronic weirdos given an opportunity to play dictator over the on-the-ground activists who actually know what they’re doing. It’s a poisonous combination, because the activists suggest what they need, and the wingnut politicians get all offended because they, being Republican asshole white guys, certainly know better than the women and hippies that have experience with HIV prevention programs.

In a letter last March to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requesting a hold on the bill, the seven conservative senators cited “irresponsible spending” and “mission creep” for “pet development causes” such as food, water, “treatment of other infectious diseases,” schools and teachers.

Of course, actual health workers know that you can’t actually isolate a disease like HIV from environmental factors that help it spread. One that jumps out at me from this letter is “treatment of other infectious diseases”. It’s well known that if you have one STD, your risk factor for HIV climbs much higher, all other things being equal. Health experts generally agree that immediate treatment for other STDs would be huge for reducing HIV transmission. But again, actually reducing the transmission offends the wingnuts, who fetishize high risk factor diseases for their potential to punish people for Teh Sex.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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