TORONTO — After two decades of research and development by pharmaceutical scientists, chastity remains the only answer to the AIDS epidemic.

But it didn't take John McKellar 20 years to figure that out. He was a young homosexual when he first heard of AIDS in the early 1980s.

“I remember … a telephone conversation with a friend whose cousin happened to be a physician in New York City,” he said. “My friend told me there was a mysterious gay cancer running through the homosexual community in Manhattan which was apparently spread by” homosexual acts.

“Just hearing that was all I needed” to stop such activity, McKellar said. “As young and naive as I was, I certainly didn't need further information or counseling or coaxing.”

Others at risk of contracting the AIDS virus are still at risk, even with the life-extending “drug cocktail” in use since 1996. Numerous studies are indicating a sharp rise in the rate of HIV infection in the United States and around the world, and an alarming decrease in the effectiveness of the new AIDS drugs.

On May 31, exactly 20 years after the emerging AIDS epidemic was first diagnosed among U.S. male homosexuals, the Centers for Disease Control disclosed that young homosexual and bisexual men are transmitting HIV at rates similar to the first years after AIDS was discovered.

Overall, male homosexuals and bisexuals between 23 and 29 are becoming infected at a rate of 4.4% annually, and the annual infection rate among blacks of that age group stands at a devastating 14.7%.

“The numbers we're publishing right now are more like the findings you see in the '80s than the findings you see in the '90s,” said Centers for Disease Control epidemiologist Linda Valleroy, The Washington Times reported.

Only Abstinence Works

John McKellar is the founder and president of HOPE, Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism, an organization that acts as a critic of Toronto's large “mainstream” homosexual movement.

He argues that from the beginning, homosexual leaders should have clearly advised abstinence from the sexual practices that bring the disease. They should also have agreed to public health measures — such as mandatory reporting of new infections and closing of bath-houses — that would normally be implemented in any other epidemic.

Instead, McKellar said, “It was more important for them to canonize the victims of the disease … than to condemn the behavior that caused their deaths.”

McKellar said “the gay leaders were strident about this … because of the perceived stigmatization threat to the gay lifestyle.”

Other recent data back him up.

Last year Dr. Ronald Valdiserri of the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention reported that the rate of HIV infection among homosexuals in San Francisco nearly tripled over a two-year period, rising from 1.3% in 1997 to 3.7% in 1999. Dr. Willi McFarland of the San Francisco Public Health Department reported a dramatic decrease in consistent condom usage, from 70% in 1994 to 54% in 1999.

Experts speculate the rise in high-risk behavior is due in part to the false belief that the drug cocktail is a cure for AIDS, or at least makes the disease bearable. But while that was never the case, it now seems the drugs are even less effective and cause more serious side effects than originally thought.

At the Seventh Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Chicago in January, it was reported that the drugs fail in as many as 50% of patients. Two recent studies, one from Britain and one from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, indicate that up to 28% of new HIV cases are resistant to the drugs.

Where they do work, they can cause high cholesterol, liver damage, kidney stones, diabetes and osteoporosis, as well as grotesque changes in the distribution of body fat.

The Catholic Church has repeatedly and strongly rejected the promotion of condom use to prevent AIDS, and has insisted that the only solution is chastity. In the April 19, 2000, issue of L'Osservatore Romano, Msgr. Jacques Suaudeau of the Pontifical Academy for the Family wrote that “the publicity given to the condom in the fight against HIV/AIDS could have an effect contrary to what is desired inasmuch as such publicity might lead people to riskier sexual behavior because of the sense of safety they feel when using a prophylactic.”

Pointing out that encouraging condom use “means continuing to feed the vicious cycle of sex which is at the root of the serious pandemic,” he concluded that “if people really want to prevent AIDS, they must be convinced to change their sexual behavior. … The most radical prevention of HIV/AIDS, the one which is absolutely effective and which no one can deny, is sexual abstinence for adolescents before marriage and conjugal chastity in marriage. This is the Church's message.”

Father John Harvey, founder and director of Courage, a Vatican-approved support group for homosexuals, says the experience of its members shows that chastity works. He said that in the 20 years Courage has operated in New York, only four committed members have died of AIDS.

But Father Harvey points out that chastity is not mere abstinence from sexual activity. He says that “interior chastity” enables people to “control [sexual desires] so completely that [they] can readily turn away from temptation. That, of course, is intimately related to prayer” and a strong spiritual life.

Dr. Roxanne Cox-Iyamu, who treats AIDS patients at the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C., might agree. Commenting on the recent increase in HIV infection rates and the decreasing effectiveness of drug cocktails, the front-line medical expert recently told The Washington Times that she believed that sound morals are the only protection.

“I am afraid for our youth,” said Cox-Iyamu. “How do I defend my kids? I can only hope and pray that I have given them the proper moral code to protect themselves.”

David Curtin writes from Toronto.