In a recent entry in his string of unhinged rants, right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has targeted gay men, especially those with HIV, claiming that transmitting the virus “is a culture now in the gay community.”
Jones made the remark in Sunday’s edition of The Alex Jones Show, echoing unsubstantiated reports of “bug chasing” and “gift giving” — trying deliberately to acquire or transmit HIV — that have been circulating for a couple of decades.
The occasion for Jones’s rant was a new California law that reduces the penalty for knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV, without disclosure, from a felony to a misdemeanor. The measure, signed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown Friday, was supported by legislators and public health experts who pointed out that new treatment and prevention strategies have greatly lowered the possibility of HIV transmission — which does not necessarily occur with exposure — and that the previous law discouraged people from being tested for HIV.
HIV was the only communicable disease for which exposure was a felony in California, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Jones was obviously having none of that. “I want to get into the psychology of the insane Democratic Party here, because when HIV goes from lowered numbers like it is to exploding in the next five years, in a few years, if we’re still here, as a planet, don’t have nuclear war, I will go back to this show and say here I am in 2017 saying within three to five years California will have a 200 percent increase in HIV,” he said in a clip excerpted by watchdog group Media Matters (watch below).
“And they will also complain and say we need single-payer, we need socialist health care, the reason we have HIV is because we don’t have free health care,” Jones continued. “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. … This is a religion. This is satanism, folks. Because if they can get away with this, they can get away with anything. This is totally insane.”
HIV activists and experts have largely dismissed the concept of “bug chasing” and “gift giving” as an urban legend, a fantasy that some people engage in during sex, or at most a very rare phenomenon. At any rate, recent research indicates that when people with HIV are on medications that have suppressed the virus to undetectable levels, the possibility that they can transmit the virus is negligible. Also, HIV-negative people who are taking a medication as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, are extremely unlikely to become infected if they take the drug daily as directed. Truvada is so far the only drug approved for use as PrEP.
Proponents of the new California law noted that people were prosecuted under the previous one even if they had no physical contact with their alleged victims. Sex workers were particularly targeted. And it discouraged testing because if the accused did not know he or she was HIV-positive, there was no basis for a charge of having knowingly exposed others to the virus, supporters said, adding that encouraing testing is in the public interest. The new law also applies to people who donate blood without disclosing they are HIV-positive, as the blood supply is screened for HIV. Men who have had sex with another man within the past year remain barred from donating blood nationwide, whether or not they have HIV.