Homo HIV Infection Rates Rising Among Young Gay Men
posted by January 2 at 9:04 AMon
It seems like we read the same story about HIV infections every few years: more young people are getting infected, what does it mean, what do we do, etc.. From today’s NYT:
For years he had numbed his pain and fear with drugs, alcohol and anonymous sex. But in a flash of clarity one day, when the crystal meth was wearing off, Javier Arriola dragged himself to a clinic to get an H.I.V. test, years after he stopped using condoms.
He knew the answer before he received the results, but it was far worse than he thought: At age 29, he had full-blown AIDS.
He had planned to have a party for his 30th birthday. Instead he was thinking of hanging himself in his apartment in Hell’s Kitchen.
What’s to blame for the rising infection rates among young gay men?
So far, they say, the significant factors feeding the trend appear to be higher rates of drug use among younger men, which can fuel dangerous sex practices, optimism among them that AIDS can be readily treated, and a growing stigma about H.I.V. among gays that keeps some men from revealing that they are infected.
And what do we do? The story tells us that new HIV prevention education campaigns targeting young gay men are planned. Of course. It’s the same course of action taken—or recommended—the last four or five times this story was written. But so long as gay health educators refuse to level with gay men—there’s no “moderating” your meth use; you can suck too much cock; anal sex isn’t a first-date activity and having anal sex with hordes of anonymous partners, even with condoms, is sure-fire way of contracting HIV—these new campaigns won’t have much of an impact.
And so we’ll be reading this story again in a couple of years, yet another story about HIV infection that makes tragic heroes of guys like Javier Arriola and goes on to suggest that straight talk about HIV infection is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Take this example:
Kyle, who found out that he had the virus two years ago, at the age of 23, said he had grown weary of what he called “pity dates,” men who agreed to go out with him after he revealed he was infected, but had no intention of pursuing a relationship…. “They blame you and want nothing to do with you; they put you at the end of the line,” said Kyle, who spoke on the condition that his last name not be used because he said he believed his condition would hurt him professionally. “The older generation sees AIDS as a tragedy, the younger generation sees it as self-destructive behavior.”
He said he was infected by someone who did not reveal that he had the virus until after they had unprotected sex.
I feel great sympathy for Kyle. But his infection at 23 is tragic and it was the result of self-destructive behavior that Kyle chose to engage in.
And Kyle? The person with whom you having unprotected sex, the one who didn’t reveal his status to you, couldn’t have had unprotected sex with you if you weren’t willing to have unprotected sex with him.