Sen. Stacey Campfield says he was speaking “on the fly” about the origins of AIDs and its transmission during a radio interview that now has “some people going crazy.”
Still, the Knoxville Republican says his assertions, including the possibility that AIDs originated from a man having sexual intercourse with a monkey, reasonably reflect what others have said in researching and writing on the subject.
“I’m not a historian on AIDs,” he said in an interview Friday. “But I’ve read and seen what other people have read and seen and those facts are out there.”
Dr. Jacques Pepin, author of the book “The Origin of AIDS,” said some of the assertions are “kind of funny,” in the sense of being strange, and not fully factual.
Campfield was interviewed by Michelangelo Signorile, editor-at-large of Huffington Gay Voices on Signorile’s radio show on SiriusXM’s LGBT channel, OutQ. The subject was a Campfield-sponsored bill, nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (SB49), which Campfield says is intended to block discussion of homosexuality in grades kindergarten through eight of Tennessee schools.
In a Huffington Post story on the interview, Signorile describes Campfield — while speaking in an “often belligerent and sarcastic tone” – as “comparing homosexuality to bestiality and making what public health officials would characterize as recklessly false assertions about AIDS.” Campfield said his remarks were taken “out of context” in parts of the story.
On the origin of AIDS, Campfield told Signorile at one point, “It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men… It was an airline pilot, I believe, if I recall correctly.”
After Signorile challenged that statement, Campfield added:
“My understanding and correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. Science, on this, but my understanding also is that it is virtually — not completely impossible – it’s virtually impossible to contract AIDS outside of blood transfusions through heterosexual sex. It;’s virtually impossible. If you are having anal sex yes you are much more likely to contract AIDS.”
Campfield, who charaterized Siignorile as “clearly getting upset” as the conversation developed, said the monkey sex theory is include in the 1980s book “And the Band Played On,” w by Randy Shilts.
“That’s one of the theories in the book,” Campfield said, adding that, insofar as his language goes, “There not a polite way to say it, so that’s what said.”
The senator said the book also identifies an Air Canada flight attendant, Gaëtan Dugas, who died in 1984, as “patient zero” in the transmission of AIDs through sexual relations with many men. Campfield said the “patient zero” theory was also the subject of an American Journal of Medicine at one point.
Pepin said that it is generally accepted that the initial transmission of AIDs from chimpanzees to humans occurred in Central Africa, probably 1921, when a hunter who killed a chimp contracted the virus while butchering the animal for food..
The theory of a “patient zero” being responsible for much of AIDs transition is advanced by “And the Band Played On,” Pepin said, but is now generally discredited.
“It’s of course in retrospect a bit ridiculous,” said Pepin. “As I explained, the virus had been spreading in Africa and elsewhere for probably 50 or 60 years before this man got infected.”
In the radio interview, Signorile told Campfield that the HIV virus that causes AIDs , ” is transimitted through vaginal heterosexual sex” and Campfield replies, “Very rarely.” ”
“My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex,” Campfield said on the radio show.
Pepin said that, on average, hertrosexual intercourse between an infected person and a non-infected person rsults in transmission of the disease about “one in a thousand times.” But he noted that 100 instances of intercourse would raise the probabilty to 10 percent and that, in parts of Africa, about 30 percent of the population is infected, mostly though hertrosexual intercourse.
Campfield said Friday that his point in the radio show is valid in that, within the United States, heterosexual encounters almost never result in AIDs “unless you’re having sex with someone from Africa or an IV drug user.”
“The odds of men catching it from women are very, very, very low,” he said.
The “don’t say gay bill,” which Campfield prefers to call “don’t teach gay,” passed the Senate last year after being revised to declare that only sexuality involving “natural human reproduction” can be addressed in classrooms, still awaits a House vote.
The senator said it is needed in part because homosexuality is more dangerous than heterosexuality and “there are people who want to glorify risky behavior in schools.”