January 1, 1970 (Vol. , No. )
John Sterling Editor in Chief Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News
Barack Obama needs to set straight the facts about the transmission of the AIDS virus that his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, said was an attempt by the United States government to wipe out people of color. It is not enough for Senator Obama to distance himself from Jeremiah Wright’s accusation or denounce him; there is an important distinction between being outraged and setting the record straight about how the virus has been and is transmitted. Senator Obama has not done that, and he has a responsibility to this generation and to the generations that follow to put forth these facts.
There are some one million HIV-infected people in the U.S., with an estimated 50,000 new HIV infections each year. The majority of these patients are people of color, many of whom believe in these conspiracy theories. A recent study among African-American men found that those holding such beliefs were 40 percent less likely to use condoms to protect themselves from acquiring and spreading HIV.
The federal government has invested millions of dollars into AIDS research that have already enabled some effective therapies that have saved lives and enriched the quality of life for patients with AIDS and HIV. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry have also funded research and development to prevent and/or cure HIV/AIDS.
Additionally, hundreds of physicians and health care professionals give dedicated care to patients with HIV/AIDS. Conspiracy theories undermine their efforts.
Senator Obama needs to do more than renounce his pastor’s words. The stakes are too high to do otherwise.