An old video circulating on social media shows Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warning that even just “close contact” with those already afflicted with AIDS could result in infection.
In the context of a conversation about childhood infections, Fauci speculates that “if the close contact of a child is a household contact, perhaps there will be a certain number of cases of individuals who are just living with and in close contact with someone with AIDS, or at risk of AIDS, who does not necessarily have to have intimate sexual contact or share a needle, but just the ordinary close contact that one sees in normal interpersonal relations.”
The clip was posted in response to Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, who was himself rebuking right-wing radio commentator Dennis Prager. Prager, during an appearance on Newsmax, had wondered aloud: “During the AIDS crisis, can you imagine if gay men and intravenous drug users . . . had they been pariahs the way the non-vaccinated are?”
Buttigieg replied by writing, “AIDS patients died because people feared simply touching them would lead to infection. Families abandoned their own children to be buried in unmarked graves. Let us know where we can send the books Dennis, God forbid you read one.”
Prior to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts to curb the AIDS crisis in Africa, and acclaim for his public-facing role during the coronavirus pandemic, Fauci had been criticized for his approach to addressing the spread of HIV in the United States. His speculation about close contact being infectious, as well as his stubborn focus on producing a vaccine rather than therapeutics, were of particular frustration to activists and other scientists.