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Action to Combat AIDS Based on Tolerance and Dialogue

TO THE EDITORS

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

It is disputable that as a nation or campus we disagree on the morality of homosexuality. Therefore, I write to do more than simply criticize Christopher McFadden '97 ("Quilts and the Moral Fabric," Oct. 17, opinion piece) for objecting to its practice, but more significantly to point out his irresponsible discussion of AIDS. He uses his moral objections to cloud the discussion of government funding for this deadly syndrome, and the reality of who is being infected by HIV.

He writes, "Aside from the infected needles or blood transfusions, AIDS is overwhelmingly acquired through abnormal sexual practices." If he means to include the "abnormal" sexual practice of heterosexuality, then his statement is correct. While there are more homosexuals with AIDS, heterosexual young adults are the fastest-rising group of HIV carriers. This means that within 10 years, the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be overwhelmingly covered with the names of our heterosexual contemporaries and friends.

A decade ago not much was known about AIDS and discussions of how and to whom it was transmitted contained little factual and unbiased information. I would have hoped that McFadden would have done more accurate research before biasing an already misinformed public. AIDS is a deadly disease worth the serious attention of our government and health care agencies. The sexuality of the person who contracts it ought to be irrelevant to the discussion of a search for a cure. But it was precisely because it was not irrelevant in the minds of legislators, that it has taken so long for the government to respond to the epidemic proportions of this disease. Groups like ACT-UP were formed to compel our elected officials, through radical activism, to take action on AIDS.

While I agree that "genocide" is an inappropriate term to use to discuss the government's failure to act (until recently), radical activists do play a legitimate role in a democracy--pushing us to broaden our consciousness. Other diseases, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, also deserve the serious attention of the government. However, with limited funds, any nation must take decisions about how best to spend them. The question of whether to spend sparse resources on AIDS research or an cancer research should not be decided with the gaze of homophobia and moral intolerance.

While McFadden begins and ends his piece by criticizing radical activism for AIDS, his real issue is the moral legitimacy of homosexuality. When he attempts to draw parallels between smokers and homosexuals he displays his moral contempt rather than his intelligence. This comparison has no place within a reasoned debate. To imply that gays and lesbians actively choose to be criticized and discriminated against is folly. But whether or not they choose thier sexual orientation, that should not compel any state to condemn an act of loving between two consenting adults.

By suggesting that homosexuality ought to be regulated and prohibited like prostitution McFadden misses the point entirely. He writes, "Nobody has a 'right' to practice 'sodomy' any more than one has a right to play 'checkers.'" By this logic, I must ask whether he has a right to practice heterosexuality, or is that also an act that the government and society ought "discourage and curtail if necessary"?

Homosexuality is a contentious issue, but we must face that tension not with moral absolutism but with "tolerance and dialogue." Mr. McFadden, while expressing his moral positions and advocating dialogue, does nothing but chip away from the bedrock of toleration on which this country was supposedly founded. --Alex-Handrah Aime '98

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