RACIAL DISPARITIES IN TESTING “HIV-positive”: IS THERE A NON-RACIST EXPLANATION?
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/05/04
Whenever people in the United States have been tested for “HIV”, members of the officially recognized racial groups have yielded different results: blacks always test “HIV-positive” more often than others, Asians always test “HIV-positive” less often than others. Whites test “HIV-positive” significantly more often than Asians, Native Americans somewhat more often than whites, and Hispanics significantly more often than Native Americans.
The same racial bias in “HIV” tests is found in other parts of the world: within South Africa (pp. 75-6 in The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory); between sub-Saharan Africa and northern Africa; within the Caribbean; in Europe (HIV: THE VIRUS THAT DISCRIMINATES BY RACE, 11 April 2008; HIV: A RACE-DISCRIMINATING SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED VIRUS!, 16 April 2008; DECONSTRUCTING HIV/AIDS in “SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA” and “THE CARIBBEAN”, 21 April 2008).
A comprehensive recent review acknowledges the racial bias in testing “HIV-positive”:
“racial and ethnic minorities, especially African Americans and Hispanics, are disproportionately affected….
in Europe … many infections today are found among immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa” (Cohen et al., Journal of Clinical Investigation 118  1244-54).
The racial disparities in testing “HIV-positive” are as firmly accepted in mainstream discourse as any aspect of HIV/AIDS is.
WHY? Why are “HIV” tests racially biased?
For reasons that need no reiterating, deep and delicate sensitivities are aroused by any discussion of human differences associated genetically with the commonly used racial designations. One should therefore bear in mind that race is a matter of biology, not at all the same thing as perpetrating racism, which is a matter of social practices and public policy. The eminent anthropologist Ruth Benedict had wise things to say on this score (Race and Racism, first published 1942; page references from 1983 edition, Routledge & Kegan Paul):
—“a student may have at his tongue’s end a hundred racial differences and still be no racist” (p. vii)
—“Race is not ‘the modern superstition,’ as some amateur egalitarians have said. It is a fact. . . . Race . . . is not the modern superstition. But racism is.” (pp. 96, 97)
Benedict makes clear the distinction between race and culture. Race is a biological matter having to do with phenotypes, genotypes, DNA, physiology, colors of eye and hair and skin, and so on. Culture is a matter of learned behavior, and culture and behavior are not determined by race; innumerable cultures have maintained their distinguishing characteristics while the racial composition of the people expressing those cultures changed; and no race has always expressed some unique culture of its own everywhere.
“Race” is a very crude biological classification. There are only half-a-dozen or so human groups in the typical list of “races”, and there is enormous genetic variation among members of any one of these groups. Yet the classification has its uses, particularly perhaps in medicine, in view of significant statistical associations of race with predisposition to such conditions as Tay-Sachs disease or sickle-cell anemia.
But it is rather few predispositions that are significantly linked to this crude classification into half-a-dozen racial groups. That’s what makes the racial disparities in testing HIV-positive so extraordinarily difficult to explain on the basis of HIV/AIDS theory. Testing “HIV-positive” is unquestionably linked to biological race. HIV/AIDS theory ascribes testing “HIV-positive” to behavior. Thus HIV/AIDS theory appears to require that sexual and drug-abusing behavior be determined by biological race to an extent that is seen with rather few other characteristics and that has certainly not been found with any other form of behavior.
If HIV is an infection transmitted predominantly via sex, then racial disparities in its distribution have to be explained in terms of racial disparities in sexual behavior. That is contrary to the evidence, and it is contrary to what anthropology and biology and psychology and sociology know. Is there any way in which racial disparities as to HIV could be explained in non-racist terms?
One would have to postulate that there are racially linked genes that influence how a person reacts when exposed to the virus. Perhaps people with certain genetic traits are more likely to be infected upon exposure? In that case, one would not have to ascribe racial disparities in rates of actual infection to differential rates of exposure, that is, differences in sexual behavior.
Much research has aimed to identify genetic factors that make for resistance to “HIV infection” or resistance to progression to AIDS after “infection” (or seroconversion), by studying so-called “long-term non-progressors” or “elite controllers” or individuals persistently exposed to HIV without seroconverting. These searches have remained unsuccessful. It has become something of a shibboleth that genetic variants of CCR5, a “co-receptor” of HIV, provide resistance, but this does not begin to accommodate the facts as to racial disparities: the pertinent allele is found “at high frequency in European Caucasians (5%-14%, with north-south and east-west clines) but is absent among African, Native American, and East Asian populations”; but non-CCR5-protected Asians resist “HIV” even more strongly than supposedly-CCR5-protected Caucasians, and Africans are affected by “HIV” far more than are Native Americans. Moreover, the CCR5 allele in question appears to have been the subject of neutral evolution over thousands of years and certainly was not selected for under the pressure of supposedly fatal infection by “HIV” (Sabeti et al., PLoS Biology 3 [(#11, 2005] e378.) http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.0030378
The facts as to a putative resistance to infection also speak quite stubbornly against such a phenomenon. The probabilities of apparent transmission are the same for blacks, whites, and south-east Asians, always on the order of 1 per 1000 acts of unprotected intercourse (relatively more for male-to-female and less for female-to-male), according to (at least) three published reports from Africa, one each from Haiti and Thailand, and nine from the United States (individual sources cited at p. 44 ff. in The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory).
Since the apparent probability of transmitting “HIV-positive” displays this remarkably reproducible figure of about 1 per 1000, differences in prevalence of the “HIV-positive” condition can only be ascribed—under HIV/AIDS theory—to differences in frequency of exposure or type of sexual behavior.
There is no way around it. To accept HIV/AIDS theory means to accept that there are characteristic differences in sexual behavior between Asians, Caucasians, Native Americans, Hispanics, and blacks; and, among Hispanics in the United States, characteristic differences in sexual activity between the East and West coasts, differences that happen also to run parallel to differences in racial ancestry. That requires acceptance of a radically extreme version of sociobiology, namely, that sexual behavior is determined genetically and not culturally. Such acceptance also constitutes what Ruth Benedict correctly described as racism and as contrary to fact.