HIV/AIDS: The First Virus with Civil Rights

RUSH: Do you need a polio shot every year? Do you need a smallpox shot every year? No. Do you need a flu shot every year? Yes, if you believe in 'em and take 'em. Why? Because they're not a vaccine. The CDC may call the flu shot a vaccine, an annual vaccine on their website, but I remember when I was in grade school, they came up to me, first grade or second grade, with a tiny little plastic cup with a sugar cube in there. And they got an eye dropper and they dropped a drop of something on it, made me eat the sugar. All of us. That was the polio vaccine, or smallpox. I forget which. And I've never had to take it again. Never had to take a smallpox or polio vaccine ever again.

But you people who believe in taking the flu shot, you gotta get 'em every year because there's a new strain and everybody does their best to come up with a protection against that. Folks, words matter to me. Words mean things. We don't have a vaccine for the flu and everybody's out there talking about "We can't go back to normal, leave our homes, reopen businesses until there's a vaccine." That could be never. It could be never. Right now a vaccine for this, 18 months down the road, is pie-in-the-sky. It's a great objective, and it's an admirable goal.

Now, let me remind again, for some of you who were either not alive back in the 1980s or were too young to remember, the HIV/AIDS controversy when it happened. I want to explain it to you, and I want, in the process, to illustrate the stark differences in the way we dealt with that and the way we're dealing with this.

When HIV/AIDS hit, came out of nowhere, and what it did was essentially, it was acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Meaning, you got it and it destroyed your immune system. You were unable to fight off any disease that came along. You had to go into the bubble. It was spread, originally reported, spread by gay male sex, dirty needles or tainted blood in blood transfusions. At the time, look, everybody who got this disease, for 10 years, died. Certainly the first five. Everybody who got it died.

There was a palpable fear all over this country. The original reporting was that it affected a small subset of the American population. People were donating their own blood to hospitals in advance of maybe needing a transfusion down the road. So dirty drug needles, tainted drug needles, and gay male sex.

Well, that couldn't stand. So immediately the news media and others began to say that, hey, it's not restricted to the gay population. It's gonna jump to the heterosexual population. It's gonna happen. And HIV will be spread via heterosexual sex. The media was all over it, everybody was warning this was gonna happen because politically it could not stand, it could not be allowed to stand that it affected only that small subset of the American population.

Well, it never did. It never did jump to heterosexual sex. There was talk during all this of quarantining everybody who came down with the disease, at first, because there was massive uncertainty about how it was spread. Could it be spread by casual contact? Could it be spread by breathing, talking, like other viruses are spread? Pulmonary viruses, sneezing, coughing, this kind of thing. The minute that a quarantine was suggested, oh, man, you should have been there. The people suggesting quarantine were homophobes. They were bigots. They were racists. It was not gonna happen. It was no way, Jose, wasn't gonna happen. You shut up. Talking about a quarantine.

This is why I said that HIV was the first virus to have its own civil rights. So the political aspect of this needed somebody to blame. How did this happen? We're just getting started. Nobody knew. Scary as it could be. So they blamed Reagan. They blamed Reagan for the spread, not the origin, they blamed Reagan for the spread because he never talked about it. They said Reagan doesn't care, Ronald Reagan doesn't care, Ronald Reagan's not talking about it. If Ronald Reagan would have talked about it, we could do something about it. Which led people to say, "You mean Ronald Reagan singularly has the power to stop this by simply talking about it?"

It was absurd. But they needed somebody to blame. And, as always, they needed a conservative Republican to blame. And so Reagan got blamed for not caring, for being a homophobe himself, for not caring enough about the gay community. If he would talk about it and raise sensitivity and awareness to it, then we'd realize that everybody's in this together, but he didn't.

The point is, 40 years ago everybody who got it, for a number of years, died. There still is not a vaccine for HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS. Still no vaccine for it. There are now treatments that prolong life, people who come down with it. It's not the death sentence that it used to be. But there's no vaccine. And when people were suggesting a quarantine, oh-ho-ho-ho-ho.

Now we have coronavirus and we have social distancing and we have quarantining and we have any number of other things, and there's nobody opposing it, everybody's agreeing with it, everybody's supporting it. And we know much less about it than we knew about AIDS. We know that it's not as lethal as HIV. Because apparently the recovery rate for coronavirus is 98%. Does that surprise you? Do you wonder why, in all of the statics about coronavirus, we're never told about survivors or recovery rates? It took a long time to get any actual data on hospitalizations. 'Cause remember at the outset, "Oh, my God. We're not gonna have enough hospital beds. Oh, gee. We need Navy ships. We need a hospital built in Central Park, Javits Center."

No. The hospitalizations are going down, as well as the projections by the modelers. By the way, why is it -- and this is a rhetorical question. Why do the modelers get to revise their predictions and other people don't? Why do you not get to go to a Vegas sports bar, "I didn't mean to lay that 5,000 bucks on the Steelers, I want to change my --" Why do you not get to change your prediction? But the modelers get to change their prediction willy-nilly. They get to change what data they put in, what data they take out.

So here's where we are with the latest model projections if you're just joining us. The original, from both the Imperial College projection, the IMHE, which is the state of Washington, that number, 2.2 million was the first number used, and that was if we did nothing. The U.K. as of five days ago, the projected deaths in the U.K., the original number there was 550,000, and their range now is 7,000 to 20,000 in the U.K.

In America, we started with the projection of 2.2 million, and now the latest model projections today, this morning, forecast 60,000 deaths which is very close to the number of people who die from the flu every year. And 60,000 deaths is a 90% reduction in the 2.2 million projected deaths at the outset. (interruption) Oh, yeah. Yeah, that's right. Oprah Winfrey was out saying 25% of the heterosexual population would get AIDS. That was a linchpin of defending it, that it was gonna jump to the heterosexual community and you better get serious about it. And it never did.


RUSH: I'm getting some emails. "Rush, it sounds like you're holding back a little bit when you discuss what went on with HIV and AIDS in the 1980s." Well, hell, yes, I'm holding back. Look, there are a couple other things I can tell you, and it's just... It's the history of it. Everybody was scared to death when this first hit.

It could not be -- it was not permitted -- that the only way to get this disease was through a certain kind of behavior. That was not permitted. Politically, that was not gonna fly, and the sad fact was that it was behaviorally spread. There was one way to get it: Anal sex. It's sad, but that's what it was. But we couldn't have that. The dirty needles came later, and the blood transfusion.

People did get AIDS, the HIV virus from blood transfusions. People were donating blood long before anybody knew this had happened. There was tainted blood. There was no way to test it, and there were people who went in for surgery, needed blood transfusions, and they succumbed. Those were not behavioral-related deaths.

So they were highlighted as, "You can get it! Anybody can get it." There was even an attempt -- there was a thought, there was a fear -- to say that you could get it by kissing, bodily fluid transfer from kissing. And yeoman's work went into disproving that. Because if that had been the case, why, we would have started sequestering people faster than you can say lickety-split.

So a lot of great work was done to demonstrate that it was not spread by kissing -- the swapping of bodily fluids, shall we say. But it was at first thought to be a dangerous thing, and they were telling us, "It's gonna jump. It's gonna jump to the heterosexual community! Nobody is safe," because it could not be -- it just was not permitted to be -- a virus that attached to only one form of behavior, even though it was.

But everybody was terrified, and everybody was terrified on purpose. It was made political. Now, here's the thing. Back when this happened, the gay population was, at the time, said to be 2% of the overall population of the country -- which meant that, behaviorally, 98% of the population was not at risk. But again, nobody knew that because of the intense pressure to -- and it was a warning too.

What if it did jump? You know, nobody knew at the time. What if it did jump and heterosexuals could acquire it? For a long time, it was a possibility. It was advanced politically, but it was a possibility. But at the end of this, after a number of years -- and, by the way, we never shut down one thing. Well, we shut... They tried to shut down the bathhouses in certain cities, and even that was opposed.

There were others who suggested that we quarantine people who come down with it because we weren't yet certain how it was spread. That was opposed. There wasn't any social distancing. There was no quarantining. There was nothing -- and the guy leading the effort was Dr. Fauci. It was this period of time that made him a national figure. It put him on the map.

But I remember everybody was terrified. So back then, 98% of the population turned out to be (even though it was not known at the time) not at risk. The political aspect of this was created specifically to battle that fact, to create doubt about that fact. But it remained true that 98%, behaviorally, were not susceptible. Today, 98% -- according to Bill Bennett and his column on Monday -- of people who get the Wuhan flu, the Wuhan virus, survive it.

For the most part (and I'm sure there are exceptions) children don't get it. Forty years ago, no shutdowns. There were no quarantines, there was no social distancing, there was no nothing. Today we're all locked down in our homes, in some places under threat of fine and arrest.

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