Before the rise of modern science, it was common to think of diseases and plagues as scourges sent by God to punish humans for their sins. We now know better, or at least we should. Diseases are biological phenomenon, best treated by medicine and public policy. But some still see sickness as a curse, shameful evidence of cosmic retribution.
Consider the neoconservatives, who are usually described as among the more secular, rational, and modern of right-wingers. Yet when it comes to AIDS, most neo-conservatives are no different than medieval peasants who prayed and flayed themselves in order to be free of the black plague.
In the mid-1980s, Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary and one of the key shapers of neo-conservatism, wrote that the government should not spend any money on AIDS research, since a vaccine would only “allow [gay men] to resume buggering each other with complete medical impunity.”