HIV/AIDS: is it primarily a disease affecting homosexuals?
July 22, 2009 at 9:39 p.m. by Luke Graybill
Earlier today I was having a casual conversation with a friend when the topic of homosexuality came up; more specifically, how homosexuality relates to HIV/AIDS. It is relatively common for me to hear people claim that gay men contract HIV/AIDS more than straight people do, or that HIV/AIDS is a “gay disease”, implying basically the same thing. I have never given much weight to these particular claims, because they sound at best misinformed and/or politically motivated, and at worst expressions of bigotry.
The questions facing me were these: do homosexual men constitute a greater percentage of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS than do heterosexual people, and if so, are the percentages so overwhelming to justify a perception that HIV/AIDS is a disease especially reserved for homosexuals?
According to a CDC fact sheet published in 2005, the percentages of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are relatively even, from the perspective of sexual orientation. In 2005, about 47% of those newly diagnosed that year were homosexual males, and 45% of those who died from HIV/AIDS in 2005 were gay men. This means that 53% of those diagnosed were heterosexual, and 55% of those who perished were straight. So far, the numbers don't look good for those who claim that homosexual men contract the disease more than straight people. In fact, it looks like the opposite is the case.
The report also gave all time figures, totals from the beginning of the epidemic up to and including 2005, and these figures are slightly more slanted: 54% of those diagnosed were homosexual males, and 57% of those who died from HIV/AIDS were homosexual men. While these numbers mean that, historically, gay men have in fact constituted the largest percentage of the total number of victims of HIV/AIDS, this is only just barely the case. Neither 54% nor 57% is a particularly overwhelming majority, and the 2005 figures might indicate that diagnoses of HIV/AIDS among the gay population has actually declined to the point where heterosexual victims now make up the majority of cases.
Considering the all-time percentages of those infected with HIV/AIDS, it would be accurate to say that throughout the history of the epidemic, gay men have been infected more than heterosexual people have. However, at least as recently as 2005, this is simply not the case anymore; in fact, straight people constitute the majority of those infected.
It seems perfectly clear to me that the perception of HIV/AIDS as a “gay disease” is utterly unfounded. There appears to be absolutely no evidence to support that claim in any way; the fact that more straight people are actually diagnosed with HIV/AIDS than homosexual men deepens my suspicion that those who spread that fallacy are misinformed to a great degree.