Another day, another opportunity for our elected officials to completely expose themselves for being entirely out of touch with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country.
Recently, state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) from Tennessee has found himself at the center of a media firestorm because of some erroneous comments he made about HIV transmission on Sirius Radio's Michelangelo Signorile Show. He said that "homosexuality is harmful" and that the HIV epidemic came from a single gay airline employee having "sexual relations" with a monkey.
"My understanding -- and correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Science, on this, but my understanding is also, it is virtually -- not completely impossible, it's virtually impossible to contract AIDS, outside of blood transfusions, through heterosexual sex. It's virtually impossible."
Obviously, he doesn't read TheBody.com. If he did, he might have a clue as to what is going on in the real world when it comes to the makeup of theHIV/AIDS community and what is fueling the epidemic in this country.
Campfield, you seem to be stuck in 1982. Please join me in the present.
Just last week researchers from the University of Washington found that by analyzing mixed-status couples in Africa, a person living with HIV will transmit the virus, on average, once out of every 900 acts of unprotected heterosexual sex. And, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heterosexual women in the U.S. account for 23 percent of all newly-diagnosed cases each year and most of those transmissions occurred from heterosexual sex. And while women are biologically more vulnerable to contract HIV from a male partner, men can, even though the chance is lower, still contract HIV from women.
Naturally, many AIDS advocates and public health officials have called Campfield out for his archaic and uninformed comments. He did attempt to backtrack a bit, telling a reporter from Knoxville's NBC affiliate that he knows straight people can contract HIV, but that gay men are more at risk. But instead of clearing up any "misunderstandings," in Mitt Romney fashion, he ended up putting his foot right back in his mouth.
"A lot of people trying to gloss over and say it's an every person disease but really it's just those high risk people that are most likely to contract or spread that disease. The odds of a regular man getting it from a regular woman are very low," he said.
We asked, "What do you mean by 'regular?'"
He said, "Someone who is not from Africa, someone who is not a homosexual, someone who is not an IV drug user, someone who is not sleeping with someone who is one of those things."
Senator Campfield sees nothing wrong with his answers.
"I didn't say I was a gay/AIDS historian. I didn't say I know the facts backwards and forwards I just said what I've heard and the facts back me up," he said.
While it's obvious that this man is clearly ignorant, he isn't just any man. He is a powerful politician whose state has a growing HIV epidemic: Recent U.S. census data found that Nashville ranks 22 on a list of U.S cities with the highest HIV rates. And we can safely assume that his personal beliefs about this disease will and have influenced the HIV/AIDS policies that he puts forth in his very own state. This is potentially dangerous not only for people who are living with HIV/AIDS in Tennessee, but for people who are HIV negative.
After all, let's not forget that this is the same man who just last year co-sponsored the "Don't Say Gay" bill that would make it illegal for teachers to discuss sexuality other than heterosexuality in classrooms that included students under the ninth grade.
In an interesting twist to this story, it's being reported that this past Sunday, Campfield attempted to have brunch at The Bistro at the Bijou in Knoxville, but Martha Boggs, the owner and manager, met him at the door and let him know that he was not wanted.
The Huffington Post reported:
"On Sunday, Mr. Campfield came in for brunch," she explained ... "I had been following some of the comments that he'd been making on The Huffington Post and read about him in the [Knoxville] News-Sentinel. And while he's always been controversial, he's crossed the line from being controversial to being dangerous."
Boggs said she was angry and moved to action. "I was incensed that an elected official could make such irresponsible comments," she says, noting that "quite a bit" of the restaurant's customers are from the LGBT community as are friends and employees of hers.
"I saw him at the front door and there was just something that made me decide to not serve him, just to make a point to him [about] how awful he has been," she explained. "I told him he wasn't welcome here and I wanted him to leave. He was waiting to be seated and I walked up to him and told him to leave. I was kind of mad, so I don't really remember everything. He left graciously enough."
Tell Sen. Campfield what you think about his recent remarks about HIV/AIDS!
Email him at email@example.com, call him at (615) 741-1766 or send him a letter at the following addresses:
Knoxville, TN 37912
301 6th Ave. N
Suite 4 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243
Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.