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Ministers debate AIDS and the politics of plague

In the early 1980s doctors began noticing rare cancers and infections striking otherwise healthy young gay men. Something was destroying their immune systems — something fatal and possibly contagious. At first it was called the 'gay plague.' Then others began dying: Haitians, intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs and heterosexuals. Fear, confusion and prejudice reigned as the disease eventually known as AIDS grew from a mystery to an epidemic. This topic contains discussion of a sexual nature. The medical information in the clips was believed accurate at the time of broadcast, but may have changed.

Perhaps the most alarming side effect of AIDS, in the early years after its discovery, is the social and political hysteria it causes. In the United States, some political and religious leaders call for all gay acts to be criminalized in the name of public health. Columnist Pat Buchanan calls the disease "Nature's revenge on homosexuals," and Rev. Jerry Falwell calls it "proof of society's moral decay." In 1983, Falwell and gay minister Rev. Troy Perry square off over God and AIDS on CBC's The Journal.
• In the early 1980s doctors began noticing rare cancers and infections striking otherwise healthy young gay men. Something was destroying their immune systems. At first it was called the 'gay plague.' Then others began dying: Haitians, intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs and heterosexuals. Fear, confusion and prejudice reigned as the disease eventually known as AIDS grew from a mystery to an epidemic.

• The disease became known as AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) in 1982. ("Acquired" means you can catch it; "immune deficiency" means a weakness in the body's system that fights diseases; a "syndrome" is a group of health problems that make up a disease.)

• AIDS was first noticed in homosexuals, but it is not a gay disease and never has been. In 2002, one in 100 sexually active adults worldwide is infected with HIV. Fifty per cent of them are women.

• Rev. Jerry Falwell founded the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., in 1956. He became one of America's most famous televangelists. In 1979 he founded the Moral Majority, a powerful lobbying group that helped elect presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. It was dissolved in 1989. Falwell has always been vocal in condemning homosexuality as a sin. In February 1999 Falwell "outed" purple Teletubby Tinky Winky as being gay.

• Rev. Troy Perry, an openly gay minister, founded the Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles in October 1968 to serve the needs of gay and lesbian people. Over the next 30 years more than 300 MCC congregations opened in 17 countries, including Canada. His partner of over 17 years is HIV positive.

Also on July 6:
1906: Parliament passes the Lord's Day Observance Act. It bans work, entertainment, sport and almost all commerce on Sundays. The law remains on the books until the Supreme Court of Canada strikes it down in 1985.
1927: Musician-composer Dolores Claman is born in Vancouver. Claman is best known as the composer of the theme for Hockey Night in Canada.
1989: The federal government sells its remaining 53 per cent interest in Air Canada, completing the privatization of the airline.
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: July 6, 1983
Guest(s): Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Troy Perry
Host: Trish Wood
Reporter: Keith Morrison
Duration: 14:01

Last updated: March 5, 2014

Page consulted on March 5, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

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