Factcheck.org has a good article fact-checking both sides of last night’s debate.
For me, the low point of the debate was the question about the relatively high rate of new HIV infections among American black women.
What should the government’s role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?
Both candidates were clueless, and neither one even attempted to answer the question. Of course, it’s no surprise that Cheney cannot talk credibly about AIDS among black women. But is it too much to expect that the Kerry/Edwards ticket – which will wind up with at least 90% of the black, female vote – be able to at least address the issue, especially since Edwards answered second (and thus had the whole two minutes Cheney was speaking to think about it)?
I debated quite a bit while I was in college, and like all debaters I occasionally got asked a question I knew nothing about. It’s clear from his non-answer that Edwards doesn’t have any grounding in the issue of AIDS among black women – but he should have had the grounding in the basic liberal approach to issues to be able to say something. Here’s what I was expecting Edwards to say:
That’s not an especially great answer, and it doesn’t require any specialized knowledge about black women and AIDS. But it’s what I thought of when I was listening to Cheney’s non-answer. That Edwards couldn’t be bothered to say anything on the subject really stunned me.
This Guardian article may shed some light on why new infections are so high among black women:
“A high prevalence of infection in the pool of potential partners can spread sexually transmitted infections rapidly within the ethnic group and keep it there,” said Adaora Adimora, an infectious disease physician at the University of North Carolina.
The principal theory as to why this affects women so acutely is because of the high rates of HIV infection among gay and bisexual men, which is six times that of whites and four times that of Hispanics, according to a 2001 CDC report. However, homophobia in the black community causes many men to live on “the down-low” – meaning they have public relationships with women and secret sex with men.
A survey in Los Angeles county in 2001 found that 20% of HIV-positive African-American men said they had had sex with women in the past six months, compared with 9% of HIV-positive white men and 4% of infected Latino men.
So homophobia, bizarrely, may be an important cause of HIV infection in straight women.