Republican Senate Majority Leader-and doctor-Bill Frist flunks HIV
Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), MD, dropped by ABC’s This Week December 5 to defend federally funded abstinence-only sex ed against a media onslaught. Earlier that week, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) issued a report finding scientifically false and misleading info about sex, pregnancy and STDs in government-sponsored curricula. The press seized on, in particular, the feds’ claim that tears and saliva can transmit HIV. But when host George Stephanopoulos quizzed Frist about HIV myth and reality, it seemed there wasn’t a doc in the house:
Stephanopoulos: You’re a doctor. Do you believe that tears and sweat can transmit HIV? Frist: I don’t know. I can tell you— S: —You don’t know that? You believe that tears and sweat might be able to transmit AIDS? F: Yeah. No. I can tell you that HIV is not very transmissible. S: Do you or do you not believe that tears and sweat can transmit HIV? F: It would be very hard. You can get virus in tears and sweat, but in terms of the degree of infecting somebody, it would be very hard.
Frist’s professed confusion is even more baffling when you consider that “Kissing Doesn’t Kill” has been a U.S. prevention staple since 1990. Or drop by the feds’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov), which says that contact with saliva, tears or sweat has never been shown to result in HIV transmission. “HIV is present in tears and sweat,” says New York City AIDS doc Antonio Urbina, “but the quantity of virus is so low that transmission cannot occur.” Frist didn’t return POZ’s calls. Was he out to lunch?