STUDY: With HIV/AIDS Infection On The Rise, Young Gay Men Remain Ambivalent

aidsposter9Gay guys aren’t wrapping it up like we used to, and the proof is in some unsettling new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

According to a new study released by the CDC, the number of gay men who admitted to having unprotected sex rose 20% from 2005 to 2011. Gay men also continue to make up the majority of HIV infections in nearly every state.

Though the CDC doesn’t know why unprotected sex is somehow seeing a surge, they do make note of some “presumed risk-reduction strategies” that guys are engaging in, particularly sero-sorting, or having unprotected sex only with those with the same HIV status.

The problem with this tactic is that the survey also found that only 67% of those surveyed had actually been tested for HIV in the previous 12 months. In a New York Times article on the findings, CDC director Thomas R. Frieden expressed worry about that particular practice.

“The problem with sero-sorting is that it’s really easy to get it wrong. When one-third of men aren’t even tested in the last year and a tenth of those who thought they were negative were actually positive, you don’t want to risk your life on a guess.”

There are also fears that the younger generation of gay men are becoming used to taking more sexual risks due to lack of exposure to the debilitating effects of long-term HIV/AIDS infection.

“Young guys are less worried,” said Alex Carballo-Diéguez, a researcher at the H.I.V. Center of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University. “…in the moment of excitement, they’re going to do what they enjoy.”

Diéguez isn’t alone. In a recent editorial for The New Yorker, former Washington Post HIV/AIDS journalist Michael Specter recalls walking through legendary gay neighborhoods like The Castro, The Village, and DuPont Circle that resembled ghost towns during the height of the epidemic.

Those that remained were gaunt, frail, and sick in a way that betrayed their youth. Specter sums up the issue much more succinctly, and his thoughts are terrifyingly prescient.

What twenty-year-old man, enjoying his first moments of sexual adventure, is going to be scared because, ten years before he was born, people like me saw gay men writhe and vomit and die on the streets where he now stands?

It’s a chilling question indeed, and one well worth exploring the answer to.

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  • 2eo

    There will never be a common ground until the extremists die off and reasonable people take their place. We have extremists on both sides on this site, both of whom it would be better if they just died for the benefit of everyone else.

  • jimbryant

    The CDC takes the cake for being a misleading organization that produces flawed data which it then interprets in a homophobic way. The CDC needs to be told to buzz off.

    Why do I say this? It produces flawed data based on very low estimates of the number of gay men (or, indeed, men who engage in same-sex contact) in society, thus producing ridiculously large percentages that are designed to scare us. It then interprets the flawed data to suggest that being gay is risky.

    Here’s my message to the CDC: poor science and misleading conclusions are not becoming of a taxpayer-funded institution. You need to stop interpreting flawed data in a way that demonizes gay men.

  • jimbryant

    If HIV is not a sexuality-specific virus, why does the CDC keep putting out outrageously homophobic statements linking male homosexuality to AIDS?

    Here’s the answer: it’s because the CDC is trying to increase its profile at our expense. It’s also because the CDC is too afraid – for reasons of political correctness – to separate non-promiscuous gay men from promiscuous gay men.

    By lumping all gay men together under the phrase “gay men”, the CDC is outrageously suggesting that our sexuality is to blame for AIDS and that all of us are at equal risk. To which I say “bullsh!t”.

  • 2eo

    Speaking of those whose words conjugate all the fun of the event horizon here’s Jim with some more mental ramblings.

    I think the *cough*death*/cough* of Andrew Breitbart let a lot of these subnormals back into the wild, where they roam, occasionally as packs.

  • Aires the Ram

    When I see figures stating that only 2-3% of men are gay, thereby misleading the reader that only 2-3% of men engage in sex with men, I can only laugh. Most of us here know that the number of men having sex with men is much greater, as many of them are in hetero relationships, are self-proclaimed bisexual, and don’t put a blip on the radar screens of the straight male researchers at the CDC and the like. And, the question of why young men don’t seem as concerned as older men in regards to contracting HIV?? Well, they didn’t go through the beginning of the crisis, much less make it through it, watching the media hysteria/homophobia, having their friends become sick and die. Those things are very significant events in a young persons life, that shape their thinking and behavior for years to come. They don’t have that history.

  • jimbryant

    Aires the Ram,

    You are absolutely correct. The CDC is producing not only flawed figures but also flawed interpretations. It’s a horrible, discredited organization.

    The CDC hugely underestimates the no. of men who engage in same-sex activities, thus producing large percentage figures that are designed to scare us. Secondly, why is it so obsessed with gay men? HIV is NOT a sexuality-specific virus and yet the CDC interprets its flawed data in a way which suggests it is.

    The CDC sucks. It is infected with poor science and media-whoring bureaucrats who are using gay men to increase its funding.

  • AuntieChrist

    Silence equals death. Or a really rotten chronic condition.

  • AuntieChrist

    @jimbryant: Zzzzzzzzz!

  • Fitz

    No, I think Jim is right on this one. First off, “Gay men” is a huge category, and trying to define our behaviors or health with a rubber stamp is about as homophobic as you can get.

    Secondly, the dire statistics and sexual austerity suggestions that the CDC keep pounding out are not sustainable. In this highly sexual world most people are not willing to live like sex-anorexics for very long. So when you are a drama queen about it, you risk burn out.

    Like the children’s story about the Boy who Cries Wolf. Or maybe even Chicken Little, lol. “Oh heavens the sky is falling, the sky is falling” lol…

    No one is going to take a government agency seriously for very long when they are so over the top.

    The focus on blaming gay men for liking to screw is not helpful.

    Keep screwing, boys. Have fun! Try to stay healthy.

  • HadrianM

    Gee. What could be causing this? If only there were some kind of protection from HIV? And this protection were being advertised and demonstrated to young gay men regularly. What industry could that be, I wonder? What could have changed? It’s like they stopped doing something – showing something that was setting a good example. Huh..

  • Fitz

    @HadrianM: Yes, that must be it. Gay men are far too stupid to know that porn sex is fantasy sex.

  • the other Greg

    @Fitz: The percentage of “MSM” probably IS quite a bit greater than 3%. But those str8 / bi / bicurious / merely horny guys are mostly doing oral sex, where the risk of HIV as a bottom is infinitesimal and for the top, absolutely non-existent. Or they’re doing even less risky stuff than oral like j.o.

    The percentage of men who IDENTIFY as “gay” – which btw, does not include jimbryant, by his own declaration – probably is around 3%.

  • QJ201

    Yo conspiracy theorist morons:

    When one tests positive for HIV, transmission category is identified (e.g., through injecting, heterosex, homosex). The fact is men who have sex with men, whether they identify as gay, bi, queer, “no labels” or whatever other bullshit label you can come up with….still account for the majority of HIV cases in the US.

    Your bitching and moaning about someone pointing out that HIV is STILL A BIG DEAL for us will not prevent one infection or get one positive person into care.

    So call me an ass if you want, it’s douches like you all that spread HIV with your ignorance.

  • ggreen

    After nearly 30 years of shame based proselyting about safe sex the fatigue of the constant drumbeat of our way or else, is causing the message to collapse in on itself. New ways of risk reduction need to be part of the message (PrEP). Encouraging personal responsibility and not treating gay men like children with messages like “play safe” needs to happen going forward. Why aren’t young gay men getting the message? It’s like running an ad campaign for the new i-Phone via a CB radio.

  • Fitz

    Well, yes.. you are an ass. Because as Greg points out, it’s not MSM, or Gay men… it’s ANAL SEX. And specifically bottoming, which is the high risk. Not every gay man has sex. Not every gay man has sex with his ass, and of those who do, the goal is to support their self esteem so that they feel that they can insist on a condom.

  • the other Greg

    @Fitz: Thanks! And please be aware that jimbryant is an HIV denialist, he does not believe that HIV is even the cause of AIDS. He spreads incredibly dangerous misinformation here.

  • CaptainFabulous

    Oooo, where’s my popcorn… this comment thread is already chock-full of cray cray commentary!!! Go Queerties!

  • sportyguy1983

    I one describes these people who have unprotected sex outside of a LONG term monogamous relationship: DUMBASSES!!!!

  • the other Greg

    It’s a good idea to click on the links. Unfortunately the NY Times headline writer conflates “gay men” with “men who have sex with men” (“MSM”), although the article itself is careful not to do so.

    Queerty continues the mistake in BOTH its headline and its article.

    The semantic problem is not the CDC’s fault since the CDC study is pretty careful throughout to keep its terms clear.

    Anyone who wants to blame the semantic problem on the CDC should probably blame his elementary school teachers instead!

  • kurt_t

    “Those that remained were gaunt, frail, and sick in a way that betrayed their youth.”

    I think you mean “in a way that belied their youth.” Traditionally English speakers (particularly English English speakers) use “betrayed” in this context to mean giving away a secret or making a fact obvious, whereas “belie” is the word you use to indicate giving a false or misleading impression.

  • AuntieChrist

    HIV/AIDS is a global pandemic. As of 2012, approximately 35.3 million people have HIV worldwide with the number of new infections that year being about 2.3 million. This is down from 3.1 million new infections in 2001. Of these approximately 16.8 million are women and 3.4 million are less than 15 years old. It resulted in about 1.6 million deaths in 2012, down from a peak of 2.2 million in 2005.In many developed countries, there is an association between AIDS and homosexuality or bisexuality, and this association is correlated with higher levels of sexual prejudice, such as anti-homosexual/bisexual attitudes. There is also a perceived association between AIDS and all male-male sexual behavior, including sex between uninfected men. However, the dominant mode of spread worldwide for HIV remains heterosexual transmission. But go ahead girls have all the unprotected sex you want,In America you can manage your HIV and keep on keeping on. Darwin awards to all.

  • Fitz

    The problem isn’t our willies, it’s our holes. The whole hyper focus on the top has been a gigantic disaster. Your ass is your responsibility.

  • krystalkleer

    @Fitz: umm FRITZ…the top is 50% just as responsible…regardless if the bottom wants it BB…wrap yer junk up…PERIOD!…yer a bottom want’n to go BB? fine…get a dildo!

  • tardis

    @Aires the Ram: The CDC does the best it can and like any enterprise, it’s run by humans, prone to bias and error. Still, perhaps the stigma to HIV has remained forever stamped by its inception in the 80s and 90s in the gay community. Either way, gay men need to take care of themselves regardless, with the CDC or without.

  • HadrianM

    @Fitz: Negative. In horror movies – the blood is fake, the wounds are silicone, the guts are simulated.. that’s fantasy.

    In porn – there is a real dick, a real body, real bodily fluids, and real risk involved. That’s not fantasy.

  • Charlie in Charge

    A greater emphasis on the importance of safer sex would be incredibly useful to our community.

  • BrandoPolo

    From racial segregation, to body image, to safe sex — the conditioning gay guys passively receive from gay porn continues to be a destructive force.

  • joey

    i hate getting tested …nerve wracking …not done it in two years

  • jimbryant

    I am perfectly healthy. My male partner is perfectly healthy. We are both monogamous. We do NOT need to wear condoms.

    If you’re out on the promiscuous scene having sex with total strangers, go right ahead and put on a condom. But don’t project your promiscuity onto me or my partner.

  • Fitz

    Almost all of the safer sex advertising has been geared to the top. Which is stupid. It’s when you bottom you take on risk. We have to stop the b.s. of thinking of bottoms as less-than, bolster their self esteem, and teach them that they have the right to demand safety. Porn: I think my friends are smarter than yours, and know that what you do in a Porn flick isn’t much like reality. I’ve never screwed the pizza guy or gotten ganged by a pack of Brazilian soccer players, but it sure is fun to watch.

  • xamthor

    C’mon guys, Mackelmore didn’t free the gays for THIS!

  • the other Greg

    @Fitz: Now I see what you mean. True – a lot of guys who are used to being on the bottom, lack the confidence and self-esteem to insist on protection.

    Often they’re the ones who get into monogamous relationships with aggressive tops (untreated poz) who either lie about or don’t know their status.

    But the ad campaigns tend to imply that everyone is equally at risk, or worse, seem to assume that everyone “flips” back and forth, at random?

    @jimbryant: For once, I totally agree with you! And don’t worry – nobody wants to “project” anything onto you or your partner. Eww.

    Please continue your new policy of minding your own business on a subject you know nothing about and which, by your own admission, does not even concern you.

  • Jamal

    Call a spade a spade, guys are barebacking non stop and there are tons of new bareback sites popping up. Hiv is still a problem for the glbt community.

  • Fitz

    Greg– yes, that’s what I mean. Thanks for giving me a moment to explain myself. In real life I am actually fairly articulate, but all bets are off here. :p

    The safe sex ads have mostly been phallic centered. “Wear a condom to protect yourself”. Well, that’s crap. And everyone knows it.

    “Wear a condom to protect your partner”. Well that’s crap if you’re drunk, met him at Truck, and intend to never see him again.

    It should say “Protect your hole, cuz that’s how the virus gets in”, and the implied “there’s dick around every corner, wait for one who is willing to be safe”.

  • AuntieChrist

    @jimbryant: I love how an anonymous prig like you expects anyone to believe anything you say. I hope you and your inflatable boyfriend are very happy.

  • tada-no

    Since safe sex campaigns in gay communities have failed over the last decade and gay megaphones are afraid of P.R. repercussions from the public and criticism of the Right on irresponsible behavior prone to gay “lifestyles,” the new campaign tactic is to demonize the CDC and other scientific communities, brand them as “homophobic” so they stop doing these studies which show consistently that HIV/AIDS in developed countries is primarily an GBT epidemic.

    Instead of doing safe sex education that promotes responsibilities for your behavior, we continue to blame Regan, evangelicals, homophobes, “agenda” driven government scientists, while gay men in the U.S. and Europe continue to be populations that burden governments and private institutions with HIV/AIDS funding. With recent studies that show aggressive strains of HIV discovered in West Africa that progresses to AIDS much faster than current strains, give it a decade before we see another out of control plague that will affect our gayborhoods. By that time, we will beg CDC for new versions of Truvada.

  • Kenny1948

    @jimbryant: I sure hope for your sake that your lover is true to you. My best friend said exactly what you are saying twenty years ago. Both he and his “monagamous” lover are both gone! Until his dying breath, he insisted it had to be from before he and his lover were together. Well, that doesn’t matter now does it. They are both dead. Had they practiced safe sex, perhaps at least one of them would still be alive!

  • Rockery

    The study does include everyone not just gay it says MSM. FYI

  • sangsue

    Yes, the bottoms need to be careful because AIDS can be spread by anal sex.

    But the last time I looked, anal sex requires a penis and if that’s not sheathed in a condom then they need to worry just as much.

  • Rockery


    That’s actually not true that the top has to worry just as much as the bottom (just pointing that out)

  • the other Greg

    @Rockery: That’s ridiculous. Where did you hear that?

  • jimbryant

    Millions of men bareback their wives every night of the week across the world. Why aren’t THEY getting HIV? Answer: because they are doing it only with one faithful partner. Gay men could learn from heterosexuals.

    Some gay men tend to treat their anal passage as a high-traffic highway where anyone – including total strangers – can enter and park. THIS is why you are getting HIV.

    HIV has got NOTHING to do with being gay but EVERYTHING to do with being sleazeballs who will have sex with many total strangers. Learn to behave properly and you might stop getting HIV.

  • the other Greg

    @jimbryant: Vaginal sex is not the same HIV risk as anal sex. Not even close. Anyone who calls vaginal sex “barebacking” is a fucking moron.

    “Some gay men tend to…” And as long as they are using condoms, so what? Mind your own fucking (pun intended) business. It does not concern you.

    Jeez, what a peculiar form of “internet mania.” Why do you feel compelled to try to reorder the entire gay world like your own relationship?

    Frankly, like ALL the monogamy freaks who post here on Queerty, you do not seem like much of a catch! And as you may have caught on, some people here suspect your boyfriend is inflatable.

  • JennyFromdabloc

    @BrandoPolo: There is plenty of porn featuring bears, blacks, regular guys, mature men, latinos, etc. There is nothing wrong with wanting to watch hot, white, jock men fuck. Porn is fantasy, not reality.

  • Fitz

    @Rockery: That’s not medically accurate, and that kind of hyperbolic PC mumbo jumbo has crippled the safer sex efforts. It’s taught young men that the CDC, and many of us, are full of it, and that our professional opinions aren’t worth crap.

    The risk is to the bottom. In the best of all worlds, sex is an intimate moment where each partner is caring for the other. But at the top of Buena Vista park, or the back room at Truck, or whatever you local spot is, the practical responsibility is the bottom’s. Is it fair? hell no. But if I were still out there, that would be my thinking.

  • BrandoPolo

    @JennyFromdabloc: There’s some fringe porn feature non-white non-jock guys — none of it is mainstream. And there is something wrong with segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

    Porn represents some kind of reality, since it reflects the racial bias, racial compartmentalization, and racial segregation of the gay community. The gay community’s race problem is not a fantasy, sorry to burst your bubble.

  • the other Greg

    @JennyFromdabloc: I love all these comments about how “porn is fantasy, not reality.” I guess robots and androids do all that acting? Gee, the technology has really made strides lately. But still, they can’t figure out how to make more of the robots black and Hispanic in porn? Go figure!

  • BrandoPolo

    @the other Greg: There’s not really a dearth of Hispanics in mainstream porn, at least the kind of Latinos who are Caucasian enough to meet standards (I have a buddy who calls them white-tino). They’re just nonwhite enough to allow gays to claim “diversity” without having to really challenge or change anything.

    This “porn is fantasy” cliche assume that 1) people are passive consumers of porn, meaning porn has no influence on behavior and that 2) porn is created in a vacuum. Neither is true, obviously. To the extent that porn is segregated and stereotyped, it parallels of how gays behave and what gays believe in real life. And to the extent that impressionable young gays are barebacking more and more, it mirrors the re-emergence of bareback porn. Porn has an influence on reality, and reality has an influence on porn, both.

    So, yeah, porn is not “real” but it’s not a unicorn either. It creates reality and reflects it also.

  • viveutvivas

    @BradoPolo, “There’s some fringe porn feature non-white non-jock guys.”

    Hmm, I agree with the white but not the jock. What about the deluge of East European twink porn? It’s actually not as easy to find actual jock porn nowadays as it used to be.

  • viveutvivas

    @Fitz, it’s nice to know as a top I don’t need to worry about condoms any more then. :)

  • Rockery

    @the other Greg:

    It’s well known, it’s surprising that people still don’t know the related risks with different sex acts as it relates to HIV transmission. The top does not have equal concern with regards to HIV transmission don’t take my word for it, look it up and it makes logical sense too. But its not “safe” I wouldn’t do it but the risk is not the same.


    I think you misunderstood me that was my point that it is not equal risk for the top and bottom but I don’t hold the same stance as you do, both parties are responsible and its a very real risk of getting HIV as a top, all HIV+ people are not gay bottoms, straight men and gay tops get HIV too and while it is less its not approaching zero or anything it’s just not equal. But I agree if you are rolling the dice the top has better odds but either position might hit the snake eyes

  • Fitz

    I am not doing a very good job of stating what I want to state.. Of course it SHOULD be each person’s responsibility… but the risk, the threat, the final line has to be the guy who us opening up his butt… because HE is the guy who is going to get sick if things don’t go well. Should tops be responsible? You bet. But if I am bottoming and I don’t want to seroconvert, it’s MY problem more than anyone else’s to make sure.

  • viveutvivas

    I have seen estimates of the risk of transmission per condomless anal sex act with a poz person to be about 1 in 1,000 for top and about 1 in 300 for the bottom.

    I don’t know why risk estimates are not more widely published in prevention messages. I think they are important to know – too many bottoms slip up once or twice and then assume they must be infected and as a result throw all caution to the wind, whereas the actual risk of having been infected from a couple of slip-ups is quite low. Of course it can happen the first or second time, but it is unlikely to.

    PrEP, PROPERLY ADHERED TO, reduces that estimate to something between 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 100,000 for the top and something between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 30,000 for the bottom. There are estimates that condoms are about as effective as those lower numbers, i.e., 1 in 100,000 for the top and 1 in 30,000 for the bottom.

  • john

    I thought this article would at least start a frank and open discussion about HIV/AIDS in the present community and how we can reignite the work/fight to deal with and hopefully eliminate it…but it seems as if some of the posters here just want to attack each other..which is quite easy to do from behind a key board.

    There seems to be a great deal of misinformation and weird conspiracy theories at the present in 2013 almost 2014..Really!!??? Please instead of reading a little paragraph in this article from the CDC, take a moment and read the entire CDC study. To those that discredit the CDC’s findings I am open to listen to you just tell me where I can find your multi layered multi subject research on the topic..Whats your accreditation? Where are your findings published? If you believe the object of the CDC is to blame/scare the LGBT community then what would you suggest? If you believe in the conspiracy then surely you can see how PrEP would fatten the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies. A world where we convince Gay young people that they need to buy and take a pill just because they are having gay sex????

    When we feel hopeless or we feel as if we are being targeted by outside forces we tend to react in an counterproductive manner. Instead of burying our heads or denying that there is a problem we need to do something. A few years ago i thought I was doing everything right..i was practicing Safer Sex and i was also trying to make sure my friends and casual acquaintances did also and especially my sexual partners…i spread the word. But then i realized that wasnt enough..so what I am negative and most of my friends are also. i dont want to live in a world or even in my town where just me and my narrow circle of friends are alive and well. So now I volunteer to hand out flyers about safer sex to strangers and I volunteer at the community center and the LGBT center not to talk to people that I know but to talk to strangers and people that I dont know, especially young people because they are a part of my world also. Lets just do something everyone! Something more than just typing our frustrations or venom..Please.

  • CCTR

    It seems there has been a shift from the ever important “risk reduction” messages to the equally important “treatment for people living with HIV” announcements. These announcements promote the idea of a long healthy life that people living with HIV can have if they prescribe to the proper treatment methods.

    Some “risk reduction” messages have also been replaced with “know your status/get tested” messages with little or no content about protecting your body by practicing safer sex methods. The facts that presently for many individuals HIV treatments are very promising and successful and that “bare backing, anything goes, and PNP” have become more popular “rebel” sexual sub cultures within the MSM community (probably in response to all of the fear and shame that was previously associated with MSM and HIV transmission), may account for a new generation of MSM that view HIV differently than previous generations, and not as a fatal virus that it has proven to be for millions of people.

    At one time mostly all of the main stream messages involved some form of wearing a latex condom (tops), wearing female condoms (bottoms), abstaining from sexual intercourse and having conversations with sex partners about safer sex.

    I wonder what the dollar cost, and side effects of PrEP are and if they are effective for the majority of people who they have been tested on?

  • Brian Jacobson

    I was tricked big time. ITS MY FAULT but i gave older a chance and had oral sex with a guy who told me he was married (i know im nuts) but i am not fully gay and thought we could both relate and that a blow job wouldn’t break up a marriage but i asked him 4 x with options of massage and he held a ring up to me and said i have to be neg im married

    after that he told me he had it and didn’t take meds, sick since and cant live with myself.

    no pay off for me at all except death and sickness

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