When it comes to HIV, spreading false information is an epidemic, and Alex Jones is guilty.
Alex Jones treated listeners to a crash course in how not to talk about HIV during the October 8 installment of his Infowars radio show. As usual, he rifled through mainstream headlines and went full Chewbacca over anything that went against his worldview.
While discussing California’s decision to lower the punishment for knowingly exposing others to HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor to be in line with the punishment for other communicable diseases like hepatitis, Jones went on a rant full of false information.
During his illogical, stigmatizing rant, Jones estimates that HIV in California will begin “exploding in the next five years” after having “lowered numbers” because of the penalty reduction for knowingly infecting someone.
“Here I am in 2017 saying within three to five years California will have a 200 percent increase in HIV,” Jones said.
After going on a rant against single-payer healthcare, he said, “ No, the reason you have HIV is because it is a culture now in the gay community — that I first read about 20 years ago in Rolling Stone — to give other people HIV. It’s truly nihilistic.”
During the broadcast, Jones also says having HIV will kill someone in 5-10 years.
Wow, where does one start on this smorgasbord of ignorance?!
First off, Jones is starting from a false premise. In saying HIV is lower overall and yet pointing to gay culture, Jones needs to remember that HIV is still an epidemic in queer communities of color. While the national numbers overall for HIV infections in 2014 (the latest year of data available) declined 10% to 37,600 annual infections, HIV rates among black gay and bisexual men remained stable while rates among Latino gay men increased 14%.
There is absolutely no scientific evidence that HIV will explode by 200% in the next five years and trying to say that more draconian HIV criminalization laws will contain the epidemic is based in stigma, not science and is laughably false.
The Rolling Stone article that Jones is referencing “Bug Chasers: The Men Who Long to Be HIV+” is from 2003 and has been debunked. However, the article did rile up conservative media. According to Newsweek, after it was published it made the Drudge Report and the article’s author was asked to appear on Fox News.
Point being: all of Alex Jones’ HIV knowledge is completely out of step with our 2017 understanding of the virus. HIV, when treated, is a manageable disease and people living with HIV have started to live just as long as people without it.
Everything that might lead to people with HIV having worse health outcomes – poverty, racism, discrimination and stigma are structural and have nothing to do with the virus itself.
At the top of the program, Jones also falsely claims that California legalized donating blood for people who have HIV. Not only is this objectively false, it is also glosses over the reality that gay men who have had sex in the last year are still banned from donating blood and saving lives.
But perhaps the most grievous erasure and complete misread in Alex Jones’ unfounded rant is that there is a culture in the gay community around spreading HIV. Not only is there not a widespread culture around gratefully giving and receiving HIV, the virus continues to instill a paralyzing fear in gay men from the moment they are old enough to engage in sex. And Alex Jones’ radio show is perpetuating that fear.