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Young Gays Not Seeing HIV Rates Decrease Because They Failed History Class

How come HIV rates among young gays are staying stagnant — and not declining? Because this generation of tweeters and Uniqlones didn’t know what it was like to see all their friends die during the AIDS crisis, and they haven’t brushed up on their history.

Taking her state as a case study, Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham writes, “Since 2000, we’ve managed to halve the number of new HIV infections in Massachusetts, from 1,200 a year to under 600. But while infection rates have been slashed in other high-risk groups — injection drug users, for example — they haven’t budged among men who have sex with men, according to state figures. For eight years, new infections have been stuck in the mid-300s in the state’s gay community. That’s one every day.”

How come?

It’s partly lousy sex education, and public health policy that’s still unaccountably squeamish about condoms.

It’s partly that younger gay men didn’t see the most horrific stage of the epidemic, when legions died awful, visible deaths that scared others into better protecting themselves. And treatments over the last 15 years have made HIV seem more like a chronic disease than a deadly one. It’s also harder to reach gay men with prevention messages now that many socialize online rather than in the bars where condoms and counseling were plentiful.

So here’s a suggestion. Stop handing out gay cards to the boys until they’ve read Larry Kramer’s Reports from the Holocaust. Or even let them cheat, and hook them up with a DVD copy of AIDS In America: The Crisis Continues. Crystal meth was a cute excuse, circa never.

And if scare tactics actually work — at least so far as seeing your friends and lovers and siblings deteriorate and convulse and vomit and shrivel and die is a scare tactic — then how about we quit it with these cutesy ads that make safe sex into a cartoon we laugh at but don’t always attempt?

By:           Ryan Tedder
On:           Jun 7, 2010
Tagged: , , , , ,
  • 36 Comments
    • That Bitch Téa Delgado
      That Bitch Téa Delgado

      Yes, we need to be reaching out to the younger generation, and at younger ages, to let them know the importance of safe sex. Perhaps we need to get people like NPH, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Colfer, etc., doing PSA’s. It breaks my heart when I see 19 and 20 year old gay men already infected with HIV.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 1:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dan
      Dan

      People needed to be reminded that it is a virus, and viruses mutate constantly, which means it can mutate beyond the power of medicines that exist. And current medicines do not work for everyone so it is still a death sentence for a large number of people. And if you criminalize the transmission of HIV like many laws currently do, then politicians who fail to pass laws to give proper comprehensive science-based sex education should also be criminalized for failing to protect people. There are states like Utah and Oklahoma where teachers cannot mention gay people or anything gay-related in the classroom, so gay people do not get life-saving information. The politicians in those states should be charged with genocide for intentionally inflicting circumstances intended to wipe out a population.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 1:44 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • A nonny mouse
      A nonny mouse

      The clearest example I know of the difference between the experiential and the conceptual. If you take drugs out of the question, those who experienced people dying tend to be more safe. Those who haven’t experienced the deaths tend to be unsafe. We’ve got to start creating social pressure to stop the speedy drugs and figure out how in the hell we people get what an assault AIDS was to ourselves before the cocktail.

      It’s too bad our organizational culture is too messy and too diffuse to get this job done. We’ve known the score for a long time.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 1:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Republican
      Republican

      Does anyone know how many states include a decent amount of info on gays in their sex-ed programs? I was in high school in the late 90s, so I’m sure things have changed by now, but I remember learning about all kinds of hetero things, like popping cherries and women giving men golden showers (not kidding, this was discussed by the teacher who was a football coach), and yet gays (referred to as men having sex with men) were mentioned only once during a discussion of HIV rates.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 2:06 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jeffree
      jeffree

      Open up any GL mag./newspaper & it’s filled with ads for drugs to treat HIV, featuring healthy-appearing models, and seeming no different from ads for drugs that treat seasonal allergies or toenail fungus. Read fine print & check out the side effects & complications & well that’s another education.

      The younger guys by and large havent witnessed their peers dying. They havent seen first hand the sad long wasting away of guys who the “cocktail” stopped working for or who got the drugs too late.

      I’m 4.8 yrs from being 30 (not that i’m counting !) and have done volunteer work with a foodbank & hospice for 4 years. I’ve had 7 “clients” die, though I was only present for 2 of the deaths.

      I wish every young man/woman who thinks they “cant get it” would just spend two hours in a hospice and see what the drug ads don’t show: slow, nasty, pointless, painful death. If that wouldn’t teach the younger folks about how important safe sex is, I got no better ideas,

      There’s no cure.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 2:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jon
      Jon

      19 year old gay, scared shitless of the HIV

      Jun 7, 2010 at 2:36 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • James
      James

      I would love nothing more than be able to sit down a lot of my contemporaries in my clinic while I’m doing my rounds and let them talk to some of my patients. The ones for whom the drugs stopped working; or who look and act like they’re 80, because the drugs are still working, only they’ve now interacted and have given these 40 and 50yos the bodies of the elderly due to drug-drug interactions. Or even better, the ones who waited a while to start drug therapies and now have full blown AIDS in under 18 months because they didn’t start HAART therapy in time, thinking they were still ok even as their primary insisted they start ASAP.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 2:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Qjersey
      Qjersey

      Gay men have accounted for 50% of HIV cases for 2 decades, however only less than 30% of federal funds for prevention are aimed at gay men. Oh yeah and we still have that Helm’s amendment thing.

      Here’s a historical twist. At the same time the life saving meds came out in the mid 90’s, everyone jumped on the gay marriage bandwagon (meaning that’s where the charitable donations went!).

      How ’bout “Barebacking: Saving it for marriage”

      Jun 7, 2010 at 6:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jimmi
      Jimmi

      The thing is that a lot of the younger people know that HIV exists but doesn’t think its a big deal because they have drugs to “treat” it. There is also a large group of men who have sex with men who don’t consider themselves Gay or part of a gay Community. Even more disturbing is that some of the older generation have been bare backing without caring. The whole bare backing thing has taken on its own life as a commercially viable market in pornography without any real censure from the gay Community.

      Where is the anger that companies like Treasure Island Media are promoting death? Their main actor, Dawson, is HIV Positive yet does film after film.

      Does Act-Up even exist anymore and where are they?

      Jun 7, 2010 at 6:59 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lanjier
      Lanjier

      Use a condom – always, always, always, always and always. And remember, alcohol and judgment do not mix.

      I wish people could really know how devastated the gay community was by AIDS in the 1980’s. It was a horror movie – really. Now it is seeing the activity and the numbers back up to where they were. Even in the 1990’s, the devastation still hung over the gay community making condom use something very serious and something very necessary. I was always the one asking for a condom because the fear and horror was always right there.

      The drugs are great, but I am afraid that without really seeing the faces of men with aids who looked like corpses — really skeletons and skin — the whole “scared straight” aspect of a world without drugs needs to be supplemented.

      I remember seeing that film Silver Lake Life. We have to remember what those men went through, physically and emotionally. Not only were they struggling with disease, they were struggling with hatred when they were the most vulnerable.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 7:03 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Samwise
      Samwise

      @Republican: I completely agree. My health classes completely ignored the existence of gays and lesbians. We learned all about safe heterosexual sex – but condom use in anal sex? Dental dams? *Anything* other than penis-in-vagina? Nada. They’re really underestimating the effect of this on young gay kids.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 8:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rodrigo
      Rodrigo

      I am young- and I take it very seriously :) I think the problem is that even though young people know about it, they/we haven’t been exposed to it in such a way as the generation before us did. (and by that I mean seeing friends dying and everyone being sexually knowleadgeable)

      Jun 7, 2010 at 10:02 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Fitz
      Fitz

      The constant emphasis JUST on condom use is a big fail. I have been working in the field since ’85, and I am telling you that we are ignoring the huge other aspects to reducing risk for conversion, and even risk for “HIV message fatigue”. These include impulse control, self esteem, general health (sleep, nutrition, stress, SMOKING, etc). Our world needs to tell young gay men that we love them, we need them, and that we expect them to do well.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 10:17 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Franco
      Franco

      Does anyone think it has more to do with self-esteem than anything else? We live in a society that says to be attractive and sexy trumps everything else and if you’re sexually desirable, you’re somehow more valuable. How about a little impulse control, personal responsibility and maybe gay print and online publications could write more articles that don’t involve judging people based on their physical appearance. It sounds cliche to say that sex sells but the proliferation of sexually suggestive advertisements, television shows and movies and their inability to recognize STIs as a real threat to both straight and gay communities, is concerning to me. I’m not convinced that you need to be exposed to AIDS personally, I think you need to be informed and responsible and everyone, from Queerty to whomever plays a role. We need to teach our youth that although they can be sexually free, it’s their minds that are sexier and not their bodies.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 11:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brandon h
      Brandon h

      I don’t know that it’s is self esteem. I think it’s psylogical fatigue. Most young gay men have known about this disease for their entire lives. They have never lived in a time where HIV wasn’t a possibility. It seems logical that some, albeit not terribly bright, people would say “fuck it” to the condom after hearing the same message and feeling so scared for so long.

      Of course the whole “HIV doesn’t look so bad anymore” issue plays into it too.

      I guess my point is that Its a myriad of issues not just one and will take more than just scare tactics (not that scare tactics can’t be useful, they just are not the only answer).

      The fact of the matter is it’s not the 80s anymore and we are not dealing with the same instant death sentence we were, nor are we dealing with the same people. We are going to have to deal with this generation in the now, not with what is in the past and not with what might happen in the future, but with the reality of the aituation today.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 12:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shade
      Shade

      I know this isn’t always popular to say but I’m with Chi Chi Larue in saying that the porn industry needs to curb its love affair with barebacking. It sends a message and a lot of young folks are seeing that message.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Fitz
      Fitz

      There are harm reduction ideas that should be considered because 1) we are hard wired to enjoy risk, especially when young, and 2) The abstinence model doesn’t work for any natural drive instinct. (at least not for very long). An example might be “condoms when tricking”. It’s not ideal, I know that. But neither is pretending that we can make people not need hot freaky dirty wild fun fucking. Harm reduction.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 12:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • PopSnap
      PopSnap

      I’m just outta high school in Northeast Ohio, and, like the person a few comments up my health teacher was a 23 year old good-looking gym teacher (in other words he was a football coach).

      I took that class my freshman year 4 years ago and all the girls left and we talked about a shit load of things like reverse cowgirl, missionary, threesomes, sex toys, girl-on-girl, g-spot, multiple orgasms, doggy style, anal sex, cunnilingus, cum-swapping, all of the stuff that would make your mother blush and want to write in. I remember actually thinking it was a lot of fun/ laughing the whole time, but the only gay thing he said was something along the lines of “kissing another dude at a party doesn’t make you gay. stand up if you agree or disagree” and everybody looked back to see if I was standing or not. It was fun but not informative, and ESPECIALLY not helpful to me as a young gay man.

      What really helped was my Bio teacher who showed the movie “Philadelphia” and said she’s been doing it for ten years now in memory of her gay brother who died from AIDs in the 80’s. She showed us pictures of him and told us stories about how he could barely breathe at times, he wasted away like he was starving, his partner couldn’t come visit him… THAT worked for me and I *refuse* to have sex without a condom, or with somebody I’m not dating/haven’t known for a while.

      I always cringe at my gays who brag about going to S&M parties or picking somebody up over at the Interbelt.

      I know that I sound like “Now kids, just say no! DARE! Drug freee!” but I don’t care. It’s like playing Russian Roulette but with a different kind of gun.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 2:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jason Dancin'
      Jason Dancin'

      I’m encouraged by the level of quality of ideas, thoughts, and solutions to this Queerty story. Keep em coming. I am passionate about this issue of HIV/AIDS, and it is great hearing all these different perspectives of how we got here and where do we go from here. We’re all human and in this together.

      I’m encouraged like I haven’t been in a long time reading these comments.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 2:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • SSCHIEFRSHA
      SSCHIEFRSHA

      We are not afraid to ask gay mentors about such issues but it’s just………the older gays cannot mentor us without trying to get into our pants. Scares us shitless!! Is that all there is to gay relationships?…I ask. Is that what old age holds for me? Loneliness?

      Jun 7, 2010 at 2:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Fitz
      Fitz

      @SSCHIEFRSHA: If you get a nurse, MD, or Licensed counselor trying to get into your pants, call your state licensing board. I know it happens, but it outrages me. You have a right to seek support without someone hitting on you. And, BTW, though I love the young men and want them to succeed… sorry, but you couldn’t pay me to mess with one. I like the old ho’s like me, who know how to use their body. :)

      Jun 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RonaldVarn
      RonaldVarn

      they need to stop using money to fund commercials that have no effect. people dont like using protection. its a stupid idea. nobody reading this article is a result of protected sex. NOBODY USES CONDOMS. Find a cure for HIV and stop relying on ignorant, horny people to get rid of a disease. Thailand found 1/3 of the cure why can’t American scientist find the rest of it!?

      Jun 7, 2010 at 4:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Amp
      Amp

      Yes, the younger generation of gay men should learn about the devastating impact of HIV on people’s lives. Also, the person who wrote this post should try to understand how HIV infection rates are calculated before jumping to conclusions about the causes of those HIV infection rates.

      The difficulty with understanding HIV infection rate has to do with where those statistics come from and who is being tested. HIV infection rate information is collected from health organizations that are informed when someone tests positive for HIV, so there most likely are many undiagnosed carriers of HIV within the MSM community that are not taken into account with current statistics on HIV infection rates.

      Also, the steady HIV infection rates that have been seen within the US may be a sign of better HIV testing strategies that are picking up more cases. Those cases could be the result of an actual increase in the HIV infection rate among MSM (men who have sex with men) or that the HIV testing programs are becoming more effective at discovering people with HIV.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 5:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brandon H
      Brandon H

      Ronald, Speak for yourself.

      A cure ain’t coming for a long, long time, if at all. Our community should be prepared to deal with it, even if some miracle happens next week.

      Those of you who have had issues with cross-generational interactions, I encourage you to not let that distract you from the discussion at hand. We have generations of people who grew up thinking they were broken and evil, generations who grew up with friends dying in the street, and now we have generations who grew up with understanding and tolerance but never knowing life without disease risk.

      3+ generations all with very different formative experience all trying to find a way to work together and understand each other. All with different personalities, psychology’s, desires, and even jealousy.

      I’m not trying to apologize for the old guy who molests the 19 year old at the HIV center, but I am trying to establish some understanding between all of us here. We have a generational diverse group here that could benefit from some understanding and tolerance (old, young, and middle aged included)

      Jun 7, 2010 at 5:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • terrwill
      terrwill

      @RonaldVarn: Why? Because it’s man-made, that’s why. Do your research.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • James
      James

      Wow. Seriously? A cure? It’s a virus, people. Name one virus with a cure. We could potentially vaccinate you against the virus (if money weren’t wasted on looking for cures that will never surface), but it isn’t a cure. Once you have the virus, a vaccine is useless.

      You either prevent yourself from getting any given virus, get vaccinated against any given virus or your immune system learns to overcome viral infection. That’s it. Stop clamoring for a “cure.” It isn’t coming.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dan
      Dan [Different person #1 using similar name]

      A study recently found that gay men who practiced anal sex were much more likely to use condoms than straight people who did the same thing: roughly 60% compared with 40%. Yet, gay men are more likely to contract HIV. The study’s authors suggested that gay men are genetically predisposed to HIV infection, something like Jewish people and Tay Sach’s disease.

      If this is true – and there’s a good chance it is – it’s doubly important for gay men to learn about and practice safe sex. If you don’t, your chances of contracting HIV could be higher than most.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 9:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • D
      D

      @Republican: In Ohio, the word ‘gay’ was not mentioned once, aside from the kids using it in everyday language, in my health class. And that wasn’t years ago or anything. I finished that class and graduated about a month ago.

      Jun 7, 2010 at 9:51 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • thedarkchariot
      thedarkchariot

      Am I the only who literally screamed a bit when I saw that…uh…top picture? Jesus!

      Jun 8, 2010 at 1:08 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shawn
      Shawn

      That’s one lucky scorpion. The ASS on that man!

      Jun 8, 2010 at 2:49 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jesse Helms
      Jesse Helms

      I bet half of you gay men both black and white that come to this site is already HIV+.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 2:57 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lucius vorenus
      Lucius vorenus

      People know that cronic diseases are controllable, but they forget that you die EARLIER because of them. A person who has a serious case of diabetes dies in his forties or even earlier. The same thing happens with AIDS people.

      Are you willing to sacrifice 30 years of your life for a bareback fuck?

      It is not worth it. These kids must be warned.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 3:07 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • FrancoisTrueFaux
      FrancoisTrueFaux

      @Fitz: THANK YOU! I was waiting for someone to mention other factors besides lack of sex ed targeted at our community. Unfortunately support for a lot of these other factors are harder to come by.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 4:03 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Magro
      Magro

      @Jesse Helms: Your post has been flagged to Queerty for Terms of Service/commenting policy violations.

      Additionally, copies of your posts have been forwarded to the legal representatives of the estate of Jesse Helms to the extent that you have co-opted the name of an individual, in a public forum, without permission from that person, nor the executors of his estate. This action on your part places you and your ISP in violation of several statutes, for which the maximum penalty may be sought and applied,

      Jun 8, 2010 at 4:05 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Get Equal R @ Least Doing Something (John from England)
      Get Equal R @ Least Doing Something (John from England)

      Why do gay men get HIV more then say lesbians who don’t use protection or straight people who never used protections?

      Do people know the stats?

      It’d be interesting to not read some scare article always aimed at gay men but actually correlating ALL groups in regards to HIV infection.

      I just find it genuinely fascinating how straight people never use condoms and sleep around ALL the time but apparently never get HIV and HIV is a gay desease.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 4:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • PopSnap
      PopSnap

      I’m just outta high school in Northeast Ohio, and, like the person a few comments up my health teacher was a 23 year old good-looking gym teacher (in other words he was a football coach).

      I took that class my freshman year 4 years ago and all the girls left and we talked about a shit load of things like reverse cowgirl, missionary, threesomes, sex toys, girl-on-girl, g-spot, multiple orgasms, doggy style, anal sex, cunnilingus, cum-swapping, all of the stuff that would make your mother blush and want to write in. I remember actually thinking it was a lot of fun/ laughing the whole time, but the only gay thing he said was something along the lines of “kissing another dude at a party doesn’t make you gay. stand up if you agree or disagree” and everybody looked back to see if I was standing or not. It was fun but not informative, and ESPECIALLY not helpful to me as a young gay man.

      What really helped was my Bio teacher who showed the movie “Philadelphia” and said she’s been doing it for ten years now in memory of her gay brother who died from AIDs in the 80’s. She showed us pictures of him and told us stories about how he could barely breathe at times, he wasted away like he was starving, his partner couldn’t come visit him… THAT worked for me and I *refuse* to have sex without a condom, or with somebody I’m not dating/haven’t known for a while.

      I always cringe at my gays who brag about going to S&M parties or picking somebody up over at the Interbelt.

      I know that I sound like “Now kids, just say no! DARE! Drug freee!” but I don’t care. It’s like playing Russian Roulette but with a different kind of gun.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 10:57 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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