This month marks the 30th Anniversary since the first diagnosis of what would come to be known as HIV/AIDS, which still ravages the world. As the gay and medical communities tried to cope with the unexpected new affliction, conservatives used the virus as an opportunity to demonize the LGBT community. Among the most vitriolic opponents of the community was Rep. William Dannemeyer (R-CA), who in 1989 contributed to a fear-mongering video called “AIDS: What You Haven’t Been Told.” The video suggested, among other things, that AIDS (HIV) could become airborne, and Dannemeyer was all too eager to endorse that idea:
DANNEMEYER: It’s known to have the ability to mutate extensively, and the fear of some of these researchers is that it would mutate to a form where it would be transmitted between humans through the respiratory system. Now please don’t misunderstand me; there’s no proof today that it is transmissible through the respiratory system — I don’t want to alarm somebody here. But the fear is that it could mutate to the point where it does or is able to be transmitted through the respiratory system, and of course that’s what happened in the 14th Century with the Black Plague. […]
If it becomes respiratory-borne, then we’ll have extensive problems in our society because the knowledge would be among all of us that continued social contact might result in the acquisition of the virus. You can obviously see that we can’t function as a society at that point.
Dannemeyer’s rhetoric was not unusual for the times and even in present-day, many still have misconceptions about the virus and its associated disease. We recently pointed out Pat Buchanan’s 1983 post suggesting no homosexual should be permitted to handle food.
[H/T: Karen Ocamb.]