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OVER THE RAINBOW
Gary Stix's vicious little squib ["The Rainbow Majority," Science and the Citizen, February] exactly confirms the contention of my book Alien Nation that antiracism hysteria has paralyzed discussion of the unexpected consequences of the pivotal 1965 Immigration Act to the point where the current situation can be regarded as Hitler's posthumous revenge on America. Stix argues that the shifting ethnic makeup of this country is "inexorable," suppressing the fact that it will not happen without continued immigration. He then concludes by suggesting that opposition to continued immigration is "neoapartheid." It would be fairer to say that his peculiar zeal to see the present American nation displaced by an immigrant "rainbow majority" is a species of treason.
AIDS AND CIRCUMCISION
John C. Caldwell and Pat Caldwell propose in "The African AIDS Epidemic" [March] that lack of male circumcision has sustained the heterosexual AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Although several studies have documented that lack of circumcision does contribute to heterosexual transmission of the virus, it is doubtful that it is the leading cause of the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Lack of male circumcision may increase the likelihood of HIV transmission from females to males but not from males to females. Hence, it is unlikely that lack of circumcision plays a role in the majority of transmission events.
Also, recent studies have established that a variety of sexually transmitted diseases, not only chancroid, are probably the major determinant in the transmission of HIV from men to women as well as from women to men, regardless of circumcision status. By considering only the role of chancroid in increasing susceptibility to HIV, the Caldwells give these data short shrift. High levels of other diseases, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis, undoubtedly go much farther to explain the African AIDS epidemic.
In Africa, male circumcision and female circumcision occur in the same communities. Another researcher with a bias in favor of female circumcision could just as easily suggest that it is female circumcision that protects against HIV infection. Amputating parts of the reproductive organs of either sex will not prevent venereal infections. Only education will accomplish this goal.
PAUL M. FLEISS
The Caldwells respond:
The heterosexual AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa has been sustained by an unfortunate concurrence of circumstances: high levels of multiple sexual partners and prostitution, poor medical care (resulting in a high incidence of untreated sexually transmitted diseases) and a large, contiguous population of uncircumcised men. Lack of male circumcision is not the critical factor promoting the spread of HIV, but it is the additional one that distinguishes the AIDS belt from the rest of Africa.
Furthermore, recent work with more than 4,000 women in Nairobi shows that lack of male circumcision trebles the likelihood of male-to-female transmission: if a large number of uncircumcised men, who are more likely to be infected by female prostitutes, bring the disease home to their female partners, more women will contract HIV.
And we do not mean to diminish the role that other sexually transmitted diseases play in increasing susceptibility to HIV infection. The AIDS belt has experienced not merely the usual burden of sexually transmitted diseases but also the added burden of extremely high levels of chancroid, which is so common precisely because most men are uncircumcised. Finally, although many communities practice both male and female circumcision in northern Africa, this is not true in the south, where the epidemic retains its intensity in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY
In "Urban Planning in Curitiba" [March], Jonas Rabinovitch and Josef Leitmann write, "As late as the end of the 19th century, even a visionary like Jules Verne could not imagine a city with more than a million inhabitants." What an impoverished imagination poor Verne had! All he had to do was imagine something that already existed. By 1850 the population of London was over two million, and Parisians numbered more than one million. Closer to (our) home, greater New York City's population in 1900 was over three million.
THE MIRACLE OF MICROBIOLOGY
I respect James Randi's fight to escape medieval superstition through scientific inquiry ["Investigating Miracles, Italian-Style," Essay, February] and do not fault his citation of my work on Serratia marcescens. But I wish to clarify that my research did not conclude that the "most celebrated miracle of the 13th century 'may be more microbiological than metaphysical.'"
It was not the miracle but the physical manifestations that occurred during the event that I determined were micro biological in origin. Argu ably, my research did not so much disprove the miracle as it supported a sac ramental view of nature-one in which God worked through nature to resolve the incredulous priest's doubts and bring him to faith.
JOHANNA C. CULLEN
Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Because of the considerable volume of mail received, we cannot answer all correspondence.