Because AIDS has from its very beginning been a disease of the marginalized, we have allowed it to spread like a weed through the cracks in our society. Inaction, more than transmission, is at issue here. HIV causes AIDS, yes, but the AIDScrisis is caused by stigma, oppression, discrimination, and apathy. The virus is not our biggest enemy—we are…
But what if we flipped the lens? What if we focused more on marginalization (and its real-world effects) and less on identities? What if we understood AIDS not as a disease affecting certain types of people, but rather, as a disease that affects those living at the intersection of a constellation of conditions, such as poverty, lack of access to education, inadequate health care, stigmatized sexual practices, drug and alcohol abuse (legal or illegal), and political disenfranchisement?
…the numbers of new infections among white and black MSMs were almost identical—despite the fact that non-Latino whites represent 63 percent of the U.S. population and blacks only 12 percent. Additionally, the greatest number of infections was seen in the youngest age group. Again and again, it is those who sit at the intersection of marginalized identities—those with the least social capital and political agency—who are most at risk.
Clearly Ryan believes that since blacks are “marginalized”, “disenfranchised” and “stigmatized” they are also more likely to contract AIDS.
Are blacks marginalized, disenfranchised and stigmatized in Washington DC? Is this their social status in Haiti? What about Detroit? Are blacks stigmatized in sub-Saharan Africa? All of these places are governed by blacks, and have been governed by blacks for a long time. Yet they all have unusually high prevalence of AIDS. Ryan seems to believe that “marginalized people” have problems acquiring condoms. He writes:
…it’s like telling someone to use a condom every time they have sex—without considering where they will get the condom…
By all accounts, it’s very easy to get condoms in Africa and other impoverished places. The problem is getting people to actually USE them.
While there is little doubt that being marginalized will increase a person’s risk for certain health conditions, it’s a stretch to claim that AIDS is among them. Let’s consider some basic facts:
AIDS is transmitted primarily through sexual contact.
Marginalized people, such as those who are ugly or unpopular, have less sex (does one need evidence for this?).
Popular/attractive people have more sex – and are thus more at risk for contracting AIDS.
Obviously there are some exceptions to the above generalizations (among prostitutes, drug-users and some gays for example), but for society at large I think the burden of proof should fall on those who disagree.
While Ryan would have us believe that blacks have a higher incidence of AIDS due to their supposed low social status, the real culprit is their high social status combined with a low average I.Q. and a high time-preference. The Daily Beast reports:
The study that produced this statistic found that, on average, African-Americans reported having sex 65.8 times per year, while Caucasians reported having sex 60.8 times a year.
That same article claims that college-educated men have more sex than those who lack a college education. Normal-weight women have more sex than obese women. No surprises here. If somebody did a study, he’d probably discover that thinner women have a higher incidence of AIDS than obese women and that tall men are more at risk than short men. All else being equal, if you have more sexual partners, you’re at higher risk for AIDS – and if you’re considered more sexually desirable, you’re more likely to have more sexual partners.
I don’t doubt that there are some people whose low status makes them more vulnerable to AIDS. But it seems to me that there are many more whose high status, coupled with irresponsible behavior, makes them more vulnerable. Black men have high status – and a lot of black women only date black men. They must compete for those black men with white/Asian women. Does this motivate them to accommodate black men in ways their white/Asian competitors won’t? For example, by foregoing the condom? Online accounts of condom-use studies, that deal with racial differences, tend to be lacking in detail, plagued with double-speak and and beholden to political correctness; it’s hard to extract, with any confidence, reliable statistics from them.