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Health, wealth and homosexual activity.

The World AIDS Conference of Vancouver in July this year revealed a mass of information not easily digested. Two features of great importance are how AIDS will affect the future health of our society and, secondly, how it will affect our ability to sustain the cost of AIDS. The Royal Bank's chief economist, John McCallum, at an economic forum of the Conference, revealed that AIDS is costing Canada $10 billion annually. This will rise to $38 billion within 15 years, he said. McCallum's figures take no account of direct non-medical costs such as social assistance and cost of care provided by friends and relatives (Ottawa Citizen, July 11, 1996).

Catholic Insight's medical contributor, John Shea, M.D., has researched the consequence of AIDS on society's health and wealth on a strictly factual basis. The following are the results.

Just before Christmas, 1995, The Moment, a newsletter published by the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice, and co-published by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), devoted its entire issue to the acceptance of the "gay lifestyle" (see C.I. March 1996, p. 12). At the same time they claimed not to promote that lifestyle.

On Canada Day, the mayor of Toronto, Barbara Hall, congratulated a large gathering of homosexuals and lesbians because they had, according to her, contributed to the health and the economy of Toronto.

On May 7, 1996, Dr. Grant Hill (Reform MP, Macleod) claimed in the Canadian Parliament that the gay lifestyle is unhealthy. On May 10, 1996, the Department of Public Affairs of the Canadian Medical Association put out a public statement that there was no scientific evidence to back such a claim. This raises two questions: is homosexual activity healthy and does it contribute to the economy?

Health facts

1. Health Canada reported March 31, 1996, that among adult males 79.6 per cent of AIDS patients were men who had sex with men, and 4.6 per cent were men who had sex with men and who also used injected drugs.

2. The World Health Organization reported on July 6, 1996, that:

a) 1,000,000 children have AIDS.

b) 3,000,000 people got AIDS last year.

c) 1,300,000 died of AIDS in 1995.

3. One out of a thousand Americans is now infected with HIV.(1) This is 0.1 per cent of the adult population. Half the population is male and 2.8 per cent of all males are homosexual; therefore, 1.4 per cent of the adult population are homosexual males. This is 30 per cent of all AIDS cases. The chance of a randomly selected heterosexual man or woman being infected with AIDS is approximately 0.07 per cent.(2)

Epidemiologists estimate that 30 per cent of all 20-year-old homosexual males will be HIV positive or dead by the time they are 30 years old.(3) This means that the incidence of AIDS among 20-to-30-year-old homosexual men is roughly 430 times greater than among the heterosexual population at large (calculated by dividing 30 per cent by 0.078 per cent).

4. In large communities such as New York City, homosexual men are presently about half of all reported cases of infectious syphilis in the U.S.A.(4)

5. Chicago Department of Health studies show that of the homosexual males studied, 13.6 per cent had gonorrhoea of the urethra, 3-5 per cent gonorrhoea of the mouth and pharynx, and 9-10 per cent gonorrhoea of the anus or rectum. This incidence is substantially greater than in the heterosexual population.(5)

6. Gay Bowel Syndrome: The organisms which cause this syndrome are the amoeba, shigella, salmonella, giardia, campylobacter, cryptospiridium and cytomegalovirus. The symptoms are various combinations of vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea (sometimes bloody), and dehydration. The amoeba can cause abscess of the liver, which could cause death.

7. Hepatitis A and B (H.A. and H.B.): viral hepatitis ranks fourth in annual number of cases of communicable diseases in the U.S.A. The U.S. Center for Disease Control in 1991 reported that in Denver 29 per cent of H.A. occurred in homosexual men, New York, 60 per cent, San Francisco, 50 per cent and Toronto, 40 per cent. It is known that one to two per cent of H.B. cases die of acute liver failure, and 0.5 per cent develop chronic active hepatitis, which often leads to liver failure or cancer of the liver.

8. Opportunistic disease--consequences of AIDS due to lowered resistance to infection and malignancy:

a) Kaposi cell sarcoma, frequently acquired by AIDS patients... many die within two years of complicating infections, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus infection, or bacterial sepsis. This sarcoma used to be a rare disease.

b) Fungus infection (candidiasis)--of throat and esophagus--may disseminate throughout the body via the bloodstream

c) Cryptococcal meningitis and pneumonia.

d) Tuberculosis. Increasingly these cases are caused by bacteria which are resistant to all drug therapy. There is a significant rise in the incidence of pulmonary tuberculosis. TB is highly contagious and is spread easily via droplets in the air (e.g. by coughing).

e) Cytomegalovirus, which may cause pneumonia, hepatitis, infectious mononucleosis, retinitis and gastrointestinal bleeding.

f) Pneumocystis carinii, which causes pneumonia. Common in AIDS patients, with a 50 per cent mortality.

g) Toxoplasmosis infection of brain, which causes meningitis and encephalitis.

h) Cryptospiridium, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting.

i) Herpes simplex, which involves skin, mucus membranes, genitals and the brain.

j) Primary lymphoma (cancer) of the brain and nervous system.

9. Dementia--this occurs early in HIV infection; it may be the earliest and at times the only evidence of it.(6) HIV may enter the nervous system early in the course of the infection.(7) Dementia is common in AIDS patients.(8) Its symptoms include agitation, irritability, insomnia, difficulty in learning and recall, apathy, indolence, lack of emotional participation concerning one's own destiny, and decreased verbal fluency.

10. Three thousand new cases of HIV occur each year in Canada. There have been 13,300 AIDS patients in Canada reported to date. In the world, 22,000,000 men, women and children are HIV positive. This is predicted to rise to 40 to 70 million by the year 2,000. There are 85,000 new HIV positives a day (more than 1,000 are children). There are 750 new HIV positives in South Africa; 20 per cent of all babies there are positive. In some U.S. cities, one in ten "gay" men under age 25 are already infected, and blacks have an infection rate more than twice that of whites. One study found that gay men under age thirty have, on average, three partners every two months. Half of the doctors asked in California have ordered narcotics to assist euthanasia in AIDS patients who requested it.

According to a McGill University study, the risk to health care workers has not been adequately surveyed. These workers, especially nurses, are exposed to contaminated body fluids. In ten years, 571 exposures to HIV in Canada have been reported, but a research team led by Pierre Robillard recorded 40 in a 6-month pilot project involving 14 hospitals. An article in the July 16, 1996 Globe reported: "According to the official government registry,... three of Canada's doctors, nurses, orderlies and medical laboratory staff have been infected on the job" with HIV. It also noted that studies conducted in Canada and abroad put the estimated risk of accidental exposure at one in 300 cases.

Wealth facts

The second question: Does HIV/AIDS contribute to the economy?

Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall obviously thinks that it does. Homosexual men who have no wives or children to support have more disposable income for goods and services, and this probably increases the cash flow in certain areas of the economy in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. However, certain facts must be remembered. This cash flow disappears usually in about ten years. The median age of onset of HIV infection is 23 years. Of those who become HIV positive at age twenty, all will either have AIDS or be dead by age thirty.

Our pension plans depend on the contribution of workers. When pension plans first started, the average age at death was 63, and pensions started at 65. There were twelve workers to support each pensioner, now there are four for each pensioner, and in a few years there will be only three. Our birth rate is not enough to keep up with the death rates, despite immigration. The death of so many of our young from AIDS will further endanger our pension plans.

"AIDS strikes our stock of human capital just as surely as it strikes at the immune system."(9) A conservative estimate of what an infected person might earn in a lifetime is about $500,000.

 The cost of AIDS:

Year AIDS Cases Direct Medical Cost Total Capital Cost

1995 16,000 $2,000,000,000 $8,000,000,000
2000 30,000 $3,000,000,000 $15,000,000,000
2010 60,000 $6,000,000,000 $30,000,000,000

Source: Royal Bank of Canada

AIDS obviously deprives the economy of both earning and spending power. Its medical costs are approximately $100,000 per AIDS case.

Let us return to our two previous questions, regarding the health and wealth of our country. Are the statements of the Canadian Medical Association, the Jesuit Centre, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, and the mayor of Toronto factual? Our nation's health, wealth, and spiritual welfare depend upon how accurately we answer these questions and what action results from our answers.


(1) . R. T. Michael et al., Sex in America: A Definitive Study (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1994), p. 134.

(2) . J. Satinover, M.D., Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, Baker books, 1996, p. 57.

(3) . W. Odets, in a report to the American Association of Physicians for Human Rights. Cited by E.L. Goldman, "Psychological Factors generate HIV resurgence in young gay men." Clinical Psychiatry News, October 1994, p. 5.

(4) . Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Homosexual Men, edited by David G. Ostrow, Plenum Medical Book Co., 1983, p. 39.

(5) . Ibid., p. 71.

(6) . B. A. Navia, R. W. Price, "The Acquired Immunodeficiency Complex as a Presenting or Sole Manifestation of HIV Infection," Archives of Neurology, 1987, Jan. 44 (1): pp. 65-69.

(7) . D. H. Gabuzda, M. S. Hirsch, "Neurologic Manifestation of Infection with HIV," Annals of Internal Medicine, 1987, Sept. 107 (3): pp. 383-91.

(8) . M. R. Lee et al. Science, 1987. Aug. 28, 237 (4818): pp. 1047-51.

(9) . John McCallum, Chief Economist, Royal Bank of Canada, The Globe and Mail, July 11, 1996.
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Author:John B. Shea
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Sep 1, 1996
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