[lit-ideas] Bill Frist, MD

  • From: Robert.Paul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Robert Paul)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: 15 Dec 2004 18:36:26 PST

Physician, Heal Thyself

(From The New Republic Online, Notebook 15 December 2004)

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist doesn't like to let people forget that, in
addition to being a politician, he's a doctor--going so far as to stencil the
letters m.d. ostentatiously next to his name on the door of his Capitol office.
But, in a recent interview on ABC's "This Week," Frist showed that politics is
truly his first calling. Playing off a recent House Government Affairs Committee
report that found that eleven of the 13 federally funded abstinence programs are
giving out false information-- including such nuggets as "the actual ability of
condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV/aids, even if the product is intact,
is not definitively known" and "the popular claim that condoms help prevent the
spread of STDs is not supported by the data"--George Stephanopoulos wondered
what Dr. Frist thought about one particularly dubious piece of misinformation
pedaled by one of the programs: that HIV can be spread through sweat and tears.
"Do you believe that tears and sweat can transmit HIV?" Stephanopoulos asked. "I
don't know, I can tell you," Frist replied before Stephanopoulos cut him off
with an incredulous, "You don't know? ... You believe that tears and sweat might
be able to transmit aids?" Frist tried again, sputtering, "Yeah, no, I can tell
you that HIV is not very transmissible as an element like, compared to smallpox,
compared to the flu. It is not ..." The good doctor then went on to explain that
abstinence is an important part of any strategy to combat aids and affirmed that
the disease is "one of the great moral and public health tragedies of the last
one hundred years." But Stephanopoulos refused to let him off the hook: "Let me
just clear this up, though: Do you or do you not believe that tears and sweat
can transmit HIV?" Frist finally conceded, "It would be very hard. It would be
very hard for tears and sweat, I mean, you can get virus in tears and sweat, but
in terms of the degree of infecting somebody, it would be very hard." Funny, but
you wouldn't think it would be so hard for a doctor to admit that. 

[Forwarded for scholarly purposes by Robert Paul robert.paul@xxxxxxxx] 
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