Dr. Robert Redfield is the new head of the United States’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
In the past, Redfield has said the AIDS epidemic was ‘God’s judgment’ against homosexuals He believes its spread through the United States in the 1980s was due to a lack of traditional family values.
During the 80s and 90s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Redfield worked as a US Army major and vaccine researcher at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland. At this time, Redfield guided the military’s public health response to the virus and worked to find a vaccine. However, his choices in both of these duties were controversial.
For the Defense Department, Redfield ordered mandatory HIV testing for all troops without confidentiality. This began in October 1985. Any soldier, sailor, pilot, or marine with HIV was alerted to their status only after their entire chain of command knew. Recruits were also tested and anyone with a positive status was barred from serving.
Personnel on active duty were also tested. If their results came back positive, they were mistreated and degraded. The young soldiers would be quarantined at the Fort Hood army base in Texas. It was often referred to as the ‘HIV hotel’ or the ‘leper colony.’ They were treated like prisoners until they were honorably discharged or developed AIDS.
‘About 5 million soldiers and recruits were tested by 1989, with 6,000 of them proving HIV positive,’ writes Laurie Garrett for Foreign Policy.
‘Anecdotally, many of these young men committed suicide, and most were drummed out of the military without medical coverage, dying impoverished from their AIDS disease. If the Defense Department kept score of the tragedy, the eventual, post-discharge outcomes for thousands of HIV-positive military personnel were never publicly documented.’
Redfield is also a devout Roman Catholic. Outside of his work for the military, he was involved with Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy (ASAP). ASAP is a Christian organization led by W. Shepherd Smith Jr. that promotes mandatory testing of HIV and quarantining those who are HIV positive.
Redfield penned the intro to Shepherd’s 1990 book, Christians in the Age of AIDS. He wrote:
‘It is time to reject the temptation of denial of the AIDS/HIV crisis; to reject false prophets who preach the quick-fix strategies of condoms and free needles; to reject those who preach prejudice; and to reject those who try to replace God as judge. The time has come for the Christian community — members and leaders alike — to confront the epidemic.’
In the early 1990s, ASAP and Redfield supported H.R. 2788, a house bill by extremely Conservative Representative William Dannemeyer. This bill would have subjected people to mandatory HIV testing and loss of professional licenses if the results came back positive. The bill never passed.
In the 2000s, Redfield was a big advocate of the ‘ABCs of AIDS’ in Africa. This program pushed for sexual abstinence and monogamy to prevent HIV infection, and for condoms to only be used as a last resort.