I realy enjoyed reading the article, it’s well written and well thought out.
However, it does assume that ‘gay men’ are some kind of stubborn hulking behemoth. That’s not the case, we’re not ‘one’ with one another. Our attitudes and beliefs differ on many issues and it’s only in your opinion that we seem to be pre-occupied with the blood ban and the ability to gain equal civil union/marriage rights.
For some the blood ban and the marriage issue IS important and it’s important to recognise that.
If one wants to talk about unifying everyone to deal effectively with HIV and AIDS then why not also identify and work with organisations that are already established and whom work with both the gay and the straight community? If we pool our knowledge and experiences together then we’ve ALL got a chance – after all, it’s everyone that’s affected by this terrible disease.
I remember that Gaydar Radio was doing great work trying to get the safe-sex message across around this time last year. As I recall, though, celebrity stars simply weren’t interested in helping out. Sad really.
Great article Scott. Bravo!! Shouldn’t the heading of your article be aimed directly at the likes of the THT and GMFA? After all, it is these two networks that lap up all of the HIV prevention funding and have pithy all to show for their (non) efforts. Oh, and wasn’t it the latter who abandoned their moniker “Gay Men Fighting AIDS” in favour of the (sic) “Gay Men’s Health Charity” and began producing HIV campaigns telling us how to have “safe” bareback sex? Doesn’t that tell us everything? The pity is, these sorts of articles come along once a year or so on PN and stoke up fierce debate about what should be done about the chronic rate of HIV infection in our community, but then the issue of protecting gay men’s health quickly becomes forgotten again while more important issues like Gaga’s latest fashion accessory or the indiscretions of a non-entity MP distract our attentions. Let’s have some sustained momentum and an open dialogue on perhaps the most important issue that affects us all, guys: OUR SEXUAL HEALTH!! But well done the Pink for bringing this issue back to the front page.
William, I have to disagree with the point you made about GMFA. It didn’t abandon the whole ethos of safe sex it just recognised that there are lots of people out there who won’t or can’t use condoms. It was trying to get across the message that if you won’t have safe sex, have safer sex. It can’t be accused of being responsible for an increase in the infection rate of HIV.
Also, GMFA and THT do some valuable work. A lot of it is behind the scenes and just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not being done.
The increase in HIV infection rates is due to lack of education and understanding surrounding the issue with a little apathy and stigma thrown into the mix.
And why the generalisations? Yet again, gay men aren’t ‘one’ being. We’re not a “gaggle of gays” either and we have to accept that we’re all individuals with different feelings, passions, emotions and personalities. We may not like it – but that who we are.
Danny, you say:
“Also, GMFA and THT do some valuable work. A lot of it is behind the scenes and just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not being done”
Well if this work isn’t visible, Danny, what use is it to anyone?!! I certainly haven’t a clue as to what this “behind the scenes” work behind these organizations’ doors entails nor, indeed, comprises. Do you think they might open this work up a bit to the hundreds of thousands of gay Londoners who are currently in dire need of effective HIV prevention education? Not that it would make any difference, Danny, for the simple reason that you are SO very wrong to say that GMFA have been right to focus their efforts on gay men who don’t practise safe sex every time and to target their one-size-fits-all HIV prevention advertising at this sub sector; for the simple reason that in doing so their “harm reduction” HIV campaigns – for example, adverts depicting the pull-out-before-coming method – sent out the message to ALL gay men that condom-less sex was acceptable and even desirable!! Indeed, there was a survey of London gay men recently that found that today’s HIV prevention ads INCENTIVIZE unsafe sex among some gay men because the messages they are putting across are confusing and they are, for the most part, highly sexualized.
The problem is we have had the same people in the same roles within these organizations for way too long and they have long been dry of ideas and inspiration and refuse to use shock and awe tactics as an effective deterrent against unsafe sex in favour of going soft on HIV. The hardline approach DOES work, in fact it is working in Sub Saharan Africa right now, which once had the highest HIV infection rate in the world but whose rates have fallen by more than 25 per cent since hard hitting tactics were applied in HIV education material to shock people into adopting safe sex practices. By that yardstick alone, yes, the GMFA and the THT, through their cotton-wooling of HIV prevention, most certainly ARE directly responsible for a good proportion of HIV infections today that would otherwise have been avoidable. And THAT is truly shocking…
Instead of all this talk of failed policies, the gay world should be having an internal audit and asking ‘so why are we still contracting HIV in such huge numbers despite information on the subject being available to everyone?”.
All this talk of ‘pooling knowledge and experience’ and making the government do more is just going round in circles. It’s the same rhetoric as 20 years ago and none of it has done anything. It all comes down, yet again, to irresponsible individuals, some of whom perhaps view HIv as less dangerous than 20 years ago. Nothing has changed in 30 years in terms of our ability to eradicate it and it has nowt to do with government policy – as far as I am aware, it is not up to the state or charities to come round your house and put your condoms on for you or tell your partners if you are HIV+. It’s time gay men stopped playing the perpetual blame game, they are only victims of their own selfishness. Why do you all need to be so nannied? Can’t you just buy pack of rubbers, lube and get tested by yourselves?
The blood ban may seem a violation of human rights, but at the same time why would any sane health service bother spending time and money collecting blood from gay men when 1/7 in London and 1/6 in Brighton are HIV+? It’s an absolute waste of resources which would be better spent on encouraging donors from elsewhere. Personally, it does annoy me that I can’t give blood, but then I also know that on an individual level, I am not being specifically targeted – it’s all the selfish, ignorant types who lack the ability to control their urges or pop a jonny on that are ruining it for me. Essentially, my rights are being hindered not by government policy, but by the empirical data from surveys into a subset of society, caused by that subset’s own behaviour and no-one else’s. I mean, are you guys not embarrassed that we are still so afflicted with this entirely avoidable disease despite all the cash the education system has channelled in to awareness campaigns? I bloody well am. I hate being associated with HIV and AIDS just because I’m gay. It’s as bad as someone assuming I’m a paedophile – just an annoying, anachronistic stereotype. Only it’s not anachronistic at all, because so many gay men are still being diagnosed with it.
Come on guys, you shouldn’t be slating all the charities and state-funded efforts that still continue despite the fact that we have done nothing to prove we are worth their expenditure. Take some bloody personally responsibility. If we set ourselves high personal standards of safety, then maybe that will rub off on our peers, lovers and heterosexual friends too.
It’s down to us, no-one else can do anything more for us.
Scott Roberts made me sigh with relief when I read his line saying that “If we really want to transform gay men’s health and see a sustained reduction in new HIV infection rates, the private sector needs to incorporate the safe-sex message into areas of overwhelming commercial influence such as the gay porn industry.”
GREAT! At LAST a young gay man is saying this out loud and in public. Hopefully the idea will now catch on. What Scott has said is SO TRUE. Well done, Scott.
It’s a pretty sad state of affairs that he feels gay men need commercial overload through their favourite porn channels to be able to take on a safe-sex message. Although I do agree that if these forms of media (including the likes of Gay Times that send out contradictory attitudes towards safer sex) can start to show a more responsible side, perhaps it will rub off on the average gay chap. Still, I still cannot understand why anyone would want to take the risk of acquiring this disease for the sake of a quick shag. School explanations of how you contract it and what you have to suffer were enough to make me take care, why people need more than that I don’t know.
I agree with ‘munch’. I’m in my mid 40′s and lost pretty much all my friends to AIDS in the 80′s/90′s; it was a horrible time. Very recently I discovered that a friend had contracted the disease through risky sex. It took me over a month before I felt able to contact him – I was so angry. He’s doing OK but will probably spend the rest of his life taking toxic chemicals to keep him alive. As ‘munch’says it’s taught in schools – condoms are free – everyone must take responsibility for their actions.
We really didn’t know what was happening (I remember poppers being touted as a possible cause) people now do, and must act accordingly.
“candidly discussing the defining issue which intrinsically links all gay men together, was inspiring”. Tosh.
HIV is not a gay disease, it impacts straights as well. It does not intrinsically link all gay men together. Utter nonsense. I am married (same-sex, of course), monogamous, and have nothing in common whatsoever with promiscuous gay men who go out and have sex every week on the scene, especially those who bareback.
Of course, young gay men need to have safe sex, it is incredibly important, but to try and link the whole community to HIV is outrageous and homophobic.
I am sorry but HIV is very much still a gay issue more than a staright. It is more wide spread. I understand we must FIGHT equality however in doing so we must gloss over the truth.
HIV is an issue for gay men, although the 1 in 6 figure applies to the gay scene in big cities not our communities generally.
It is however a really complex set of issues, we know telling people what to do is ineffective, just saying “use a condom and plenty of lube” is pointless. We know that if guys are both negative then then there is no risk if they are monogamous but we also the fury some men express if it is suggested (as research indicates) that very few long term (5 years+) gay relationships are monogamous.
We need guys to test early and often so if they have been exposed they can get the best treatment. Yet we positive gay men are stigmatised and rejected how often do you see Disease Free or Clean on a profile? And testing even with Rapid Test becomes a fearful exercise.
I’m in my 26th year living with HIV I’ve not had penetrative sex without a rubber since 1984, but I can understand why guys do it, closeness, intimacy, connection trust? I think the BB porn issue has largely been bypassed by the internet (do people still buy porn) there is every variety available the BB aspect being as much a fantasy as the fit young man’s muscles, it’s there we have to live with it.
The third decade of HIV is different to those that preceded it, the era of Aids is over in the developed world the scare tactics used in Africa won’t work in big city gay communities when one pill a day treatments are standard and everyone knows somebody Poz they see at the gym. Those of us that are ill are invisible, marganalised and poor but that just isn’t noticed and is difficult to put into advert in the magazines largely populated by adverts for clubs and sex workers. GMFA do some of the bet adverts, the THT some of the worst the recent toothbrush ads were terrible – how long did we spend saying you can’t get HIV from a tooth brush? Strangely you could Hepatitis C which is much more infectious than HIV requires just a speck of blood and survives longer outside the body, but thats another story and a virus I’ve so far managed to avoid.
Gay men are at far higher risk, far more likely to contract hiv than straight people in the UK. It’s a very sad fact. It scares me that some people don’t get that and get defensive. The facts are not homophobic, they’re just the facts. I think it’s why we don’t deal with it – because young people dont fully understand they are at greater risk
Andy Q and all – have you not seen the number of straight people with HIV in Africa and India? To say it is more a gay issue than a straight issue is utter rubbish. People who say that are gay men who want the gay community to be the victims. We aren’t the victims, we can live perfectly normal lives, if we stop feeling sorry for ourselves.
Perhaps less young gay men would get HIV if they had better older gay role models, role models who, instead of sitting around feeling sorry for themselves and going on and on and on and on about HIV, stood up to provide a positive role model to young gay men.
How about instead of focusing so heavily on HIV education, we start removing the cause of the problems that lead to young gay men taking stupid risks without condoms? All the education in the world won’t make a difference if a young gay man is depressed and wants to go out and do something stupid.
How about we provide decent role models to stop them getting depressed in the first place?
What are they going to think if they look up to us, and we are just going on about HIV again and again and again?
It is pathetic. I lost friends to HIV, and it was terrible, and tragic, but we all need to move on and get over it, and do right by young gay men by providing good role models.
“According to Terrence Higgins Trust, one in seven of all gay men on London’s scene is HIV-positive and the figure is probably closer to one in six for my home city of Brighton.”
And that says it all: “on London’s scene”. There are plenty of gay men who don’t live on the scene, living perfectly normal suburban lives. The 1 in 7 figure is a complete distortion. Those who go out on the scene are just a small portion of the community. This issue is nowhere near as bad as some of the posters here make it out.
“the huge gulf of health inequality amongst gay men in comparison to our heterosexual counterparts”.
What gulf? When I go into see my doctor, or to hospital, I get treated just the same as anyway else. There is no gulf. Rubbish.
And what of the potentially thousands of gay men who do NOT frequent the scene but do hook up on line or wherever with someone who is one of the 1 in 6 who has the virus? You see, that argument just does not wash. HIV is an issue that affects the ENTIRE community because it has the potential to spread its tentacles way beyond the THT-endorsed saunas and GMFA fundraising sex clubs, not just scene-going gays. And how can Patrick possibly say we need to move on and get over HIV? Sorry, have I missed something? Has a cure been found? Try telling that to an old friend of mine who, in the 1980s, was one of the most famous male models of his generation and is now being given the last rites in a hospital ward, full-blown AIDS having finally having over-ridden his antivirals.
The health charities’ mantra and focus today seems to be “Get tested!”, “Get tested”, which is understandable when you consider they make their money not on preventing the ongoing spread of HIV but on the services they are able to offer newly-diagnosed gay men. HIV prevention itself seems to have become almost an afterthought, and there are many, many young gay men coming onto a gay scene where one in 6/7 are HIV poz and who, therefore, are sitting ducks for the virus. These same pages have long bemoaned the fact that these poor guys have been deprived of sex education at school – but we are doing little or nothing to equip them with even the basics of safe sex techniques within our own media. How can these young men possible be expected to take responsibility for the risks they take when they have not even been properly educated to know that they ARE taking risks in the first place?!?
Hel-lo?!? Pot, kettle and black are three words that spring to mind here, so enough from the apologists for our HIV prevention charities who are not fit for purpose. Let’s demand the right for HIV neg guys to be fully informed of HIV as part of their rite of passage onto the gay scene.
Great article for the creation of the discussion, which is what is needed. However I’m not sure if more money for NHS Services around HIV and Aids is what’s needed.
The reason I say this is simple, with equal rights comes equal responsibilities. I know we haven’t achieved a ‘true’ equality by far but I’m afraid every gay person does need to be responsible for their own actions.
I have never met anyone gay who didn’t know how the virus is transmitted yet still, many gay men choose to carry out practices which add to the statistics.
Cruising grounds, saunas and night clubs, Grindr and many other apps are all ways that make it easier for gay people to be less isolated (especially in rural areas). However it is the pursuit of sex for many, no problem but why is the pursuit of safe sex not so sexy?
I’m afraid for those of us gay men who do chose to consider our own health and others when having one night stands, group sex or just a romantic meal followed by romance with your partner then issues like the blood (and tissue) ban become important.
There was a call for mixed race people to come forward to offer bone marrow for an 8 year old mixed race boy who desperately needed the procedure. I made contact fitting the criteria apart from one of course the fact that I was gay, it rule me out. The child died without ever finding a match. I’m not of course saying that i could have saved that child but it was a possibility and because I am gay it ruled me out and any potential chance for the child too.
So it’s easy to shout from the side lines that everyone else is looking in the wrong direction the reality is we need to look at ourselves, our practice and behaviour.
I find it astonishing that people are happy to have unprotected sex then isolate those people who are aware of thier HIV status.
Think twice, one about yourself and once about the other person.
Equality offers great rewards, that requires responsibility.
More and more gay men catch HIV. It seems that gay men is easier to get an HIV. According to the report from the largest HIV dating site == stdloving.com , the gay subscribers increased continually.
There is a lot of talk here that gay men should take redponsbility around safer sex but as William points out, how can they do do when they are not being properly and consistently informed by the hiv charities whose remit it is, surely, to be providing dIrect and up front campains? All I see these days are ads for pep, get tested today, and weirdly linguistic ads like the THIVK campain which seemed to be programming the idea of having hiv into our heads. Furthermore, far from encouraging positive men to take responsibility for their condition, the charities portray them as victims to be molly-coddled and whose feelings mustn’t be hurt at any costs – even at the cost of devising hard-hitting campains that would actually have the desired effect of shocking and deterring more men into safer practices than the past decade’s lamentably forgetable and half baked efforts. Why do you think everyone instantly recalls the iceberg campain of the eighties? Because it made an impact and remained on the public consciousness for years. Does anyone recall the ludicrous cracked egg or hiv detector ads of the last couple of years? Exactly. In this crazy PC world gay men are being deprived of the stark facts of what having hiv really means. Believe me, it’s no picnic, and that’s the messafe the charities should be broadcasting.
Kevin – I agree with a lot of what you say, there simply isn’t the shock value anymore. Plus it seems to be considered less of a killer than it once was because people live longer. In some ways, as awful as this sounds, if people did still die quickly, maybe people would sit up and notice. Though obviously I am not advocating that we should stop anyone’s treatment to achieve that. If we treated gay men as adults with hard facts instead of a PC, softly-softly, Topsy and Tim approach, we might just get a result.
- If you don’t wear a condom, you’ll probably get it
- Both you and your partner(s) must declare their HIV status to each other
- Both you and your partner(s) must get tested before entering into a sexual relationship
- If you and your partner(s) have an open relationship, you are increasing your chances of contracting HIV
Etc etc etc, but you get the drift. Now was that hard? Did I need £10m from the government to get that point across? No, of course not.
This sounds a lot like telling people what to do. And, yes, it is. But that’s what happens when people are given the choice to do the right thing or not. When they don’t and the effects have implications for wider society, then they have to be micromanaged. If this is what it will take to cut the epidemic, then so be it. Bring back the iceberg and the tombstone.
Health4men and ANOVA Health Institute are committed to providing HIV treatment and prevention services to gay and other men who have sex with men in South Africa. http://www.health4men.co.za or http://www.anovahealth.co.za
William comment 17 -
“HIV is an issue that affects the ENTIRE community”.
No, it doesn’t actually. I have a few friends with HIV, but most don’t. I am monogamous and married. I don’t have HIV. It doesn’t impact me.
There are a myriad of other diseases (cancer, for exmmple) that impact us as well. Why the obsession with HIV? It is because of these silly old queens still stuck in the 80s who think the whole community needs to focus on that and nothing else, because some people didn’t put condoms on.
Well, lets all sit here crying all night shall we.
Or maybe we can move on, realise there are million other diseases that impact the gay community, and grow up as a community, not getting stuck in the past.
“More and more gay men catch HIV”.
So tell them they should have worn a bloody condom! Issue finished!
Patrick, pray do tell me what other terminal disease in the UK today – and let’s make no bones about this, HIV is STILL a terminal condition because no cure exists – comprises two-thirds of gay men as sufferers? Exactly. Point made. Yes, there are other diseases that impact the gay community, but none with the frequency and ferocity as does HIV when weighed up against the mainstream population. Two thirds of heart disease victims, diabetics and morbidly obese people are not gay men are they? And as for your last comment, the point is no one is telling us anymore to wear a condom. HIV ads today, as Kevin points out, are screaming at us to get tested and to pop morning after pills instead!
Some very good points Munch, but I do think HIV ads can be hard-hitting without resort to the tone of the 1980s ice bergs campaign, which invoked fear into a generation of gay men as everyone at the time thought that contracting HTLV-3 (as it was called back then) was a death sentence, which in effect it was in the pre-antiviral drugs era. Nowadays progression to full-blown AIDS is extended by many years for most people, but the shock tactics that need to be conveyed to gay men today are vivid graphic presentations of the many horrible side effects of taking these drugs, cross-infection with other STIs like hep-c and issues such as social isolation/exclusion and mental illness. These are the realities of living with HIV today, but you would never know that from the HIV ads churned out by the PC indoctrinated THT and the GMFA, who prefer to hammer their messages home with, er, eggs shells, tooth brushes, sponges, natty HIV detector head gear, etc. etc. Graphic realism in HIV campaigning is what is needed to shake up and wake up gay men to the facts of HIV infection, but we won’t get that from either of these misguided, PC toadying agencies.
Andy, can you kindly keep your Crusade crusade off this forum. It has no place here and serves only to distract from the debate in hand. Moderator?
Scott Roberts works for Gaydar. Gaydar is full of unsafe sex ads. Pot? Kettle?
Scott makes so many points its almost difficult to know where to start. Having taken the first call on the THT helpline back on Feb 14th 1984 I’ve seen the AIDS issue gone from hidden, to supression, to national panic, to me beng lablelled one of the “AIDS mafia” to “its not my issue”.
My failure in all my work HIV was to ignore the legacy – who was going to fill the space ? The space left either by the dead or by those like me who needed to make a lving and stop have two jobs, paid and voluntary, and focus on one that paid the day to day bills.
The real truth is that now its prevention and mental health that should be the priorities, two issues that the NHS doesn’t do well at all. And it requires energy and these days money. Thatcher gave us the “me” culture that Blair made no attempt to change. Now we need an “us” culture – thats where prevention messages are formed and mental health needs are met. At least I like to think thats what we had in the 1980s – not better than now by any means but different. A culture born of trauma that formed a ghetto.
The answer today is perhaps a new challenge or threat. Maybe the new Government and fanatical religon together are enemies worth fighting.
This week a friend with HIV is having heart surgery – needed as a direct result of his HIV meds. I don’t think that we stopped fighting HIV. We got tired, we moved on and many of us died.
Pot, kettle etc. perhaps, but good to see that Gaydar has at least one conscientious objector within its rank and file. Maybe his influence will lead to Gaydar taking greater heed of social issues relevant to its database, and in so doing clean up their act a bit, or at least attempt to balance all the solicitations to indulge in drug-fuelled barebacking orgies with some hard-hitting safe sex campaigns – and please, not of the so-called “risk minimization” kind so favoured by the PC charities.
William number 25 – 2/3 of gay men have HIV!!!! Nonsense!
William number 25 – I think what you were saying is that 2/3 of HIV sufferers are gay. Ok, fine, that is the UK. You forgot to mention Africa and India. Once you take all the heterosexuals in those countries who have it the numbers even out. It is not a gay disease.
Patrick 31: What’s your point? This is not India, this is not Africa, this is the UK where half of those with HIV are gay men or men who have sex with men. Burrying your head in the sand of Africa will do little to address the HIV epidemic amongst MSM in the UK. The issue is really not about HIV being or not a gay disease but about evidence-based approach.
I pick up on the Parliamentary point mentioned. My organisation (tcell.org.uk) & others I know continue to lobby the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV/AIDS to undertake more activity on the indegenous HIV population and the issues faced. Most of the focus follows the efforts of DFiD and whilst worthy it seems wholly to the detriment of the UK. The recent tour of young people living with HIV passed through the Commons recently hosted by the APPG HIV/AIDS. I went last year and had the same question this year – “Where is the young person from the UK on this panel?” all the other young people were from Africa and the USA.
It seems that the “whisper in my ear” a few years ago from a parliamentarian is correct – “The Civil Servants are of the view that HIV in the UK has been dealt with”. With this advice being given getting HIV on the UK political agenda is very tough. We all need to campaign on this and we can all start by holding our local MP’s to account.
Q: When did gay men stop fighting HIV?
A: When all their mates stopped dropping like flies and they thought drugs had fixed everything.
@Kevin 20: how interesting that gay men need to be provided with information about condoms and safe sex. I don’t recall them having such needs when looking for BB sex?! So my advice is: the next time you open google, try “HIV prevention” instead of “bareback sex”.
@Patrick – two-thirds of people with HIV in the UK are gay men – FACT godammit!!
We are not talking about blooming Africa here. We are talking about HIV relevant to gay men – us! – in the UK. What has Africa got to to with the facts that many gay men today are walking into a lifetime of consuming toxic antivirals for the lack of decent, impacting HIV campaigns?! Get real man!!! If you are so concerned about heterosexuals with HIV in Africa and India, fly over there, hire a chartered aircraft and do a mass condom drop over those continents why don’t you. Sheesh, give me strength!!!
Ok, so 2/3 of HIV positive men in the UK are gay men. So what?
Why do they deserve special treatment.
1 in 3 people develop some form of cancer in their lives. I would say it is fair to say 1 in 3 gay people therefore develop some form of cancer in their lives (unless we have some type of immunity).
The statistic quoted in this article is that 1 in 7 gay people on the London scene might have HIV. Add on the people off the scene and it is much less than 1 in 7. Probably 1 in 30 I would say, maybe 1 in 50.
Whatever it is, it is less than 1 in 3.
So, if cancer impacts such an enormous number more gay men then HIV, why aren’t there stories on Pinknews about cancer?
As I said earlier, it is because some members of the community, especially older ones, are obsessed with the issue.
Most younger members of the community don’t give a flying …. about HIV. They have other concerns, like which university they are going to study. And the fact that gay men can finally live like that, thinking about normal day to day things, is a good thing. It shows that liberation is working.
All these silly queens who would have the whole community run around worrying about HIV like the sky is about to fall in need to get a life. HIV is a terrible thing, but it can be dealt with through normal public health initiatives.
We DON’T need special resources for this. The gay community has to start realising they are not a special case any more, and we should not get special treatment. HIV should be treated like any other disease, and dealt with life any other public health issue.
Can’t everyone just ignore this insensitive and offensive ignoramous? This imbecile is obviously an agent provocateur planted by the other side to work us up into a lather. William is spot on with his facts and observations. Don’t take the bait, mate.
Didn’t gmfa ONCE stand for “gay men fighting aids”? Note emphasis on the word “once”. I think that answers the author’s question in a nutshell. Cute pic by the way!
Patrick: “Ok, so 2/3 of HIV positive men in the UK are gay men. So what? Why do they deserve special treatment. 1 in 3 people develop some form of cancer in their lives.”
But the big difference is HIV is totally preventable, apart from the odd incident. Unless you smoke like a chimney, the chances are cancer is just luck of the draw.
Frankly, if you catch HIV these days, it’s your own damn fault. It’s not like you haven’t been warned.
The event at Queer Question Time clearly showed that gay men have definately not stopped fighting HIV – or at least there was a room full of people still fighting and engaged in the issue.
It would be inspiring if those (William/Gary et al) who have the energy to wag their fingers at GMFA and THT directed that energy at getting involved in the fight and doing something that moves things forward. Many individuals and groups (including QQT) do things with no funding – come on guys, let’s work together and make a difference.
I’m not sure that anyone’s still following this, but having read it I hope they are. As someone who was involved in the 80′s and 90′s trying to prevent HIV transmission, and then through my own lapse acquired it in the naughties, I hope that I have a good perspective on the question.
The answer for me is that as a group, (I’m not sure we are one community, but we do like to group together, in many separate groups that often cross ach other) we have stopped fighting, with a few notable exceptions. But individually many of us continue.
This is a disease that affects gay men more than most other population groups in the UK (and in the developed world, although poverty is still one of the most defining factors for HIV transmission globally), if only because what defines us is sex, and as men we have a predilection for sex; we enjoy it, many of us are liberated by it, and in the absence of social constraints about how we should construct our sexual lives until now, many of us use sex as a recreation. There’s nothing implicitly wrong with that unless one is religiously inclined), although it does carry psychological implications for us as we get older, especially if we haven’t found other ways to experience and enjoy other peoples’ company.
However, the more sexual partners one has, the more likely one is to acquire a sexually transmitted infection, it’s a simple risk calculation. As Patrick put it, if someone is monogamous, and fond the right man, as long as they are not HIV positive, then hey, worries over…
…but many gay men don’t live like that, and even the best of relationships flounder; divorces continue to increase, and have even started take the glitter of the hard won civil partnerships. So, as long as HIV is out there, and its prevalence is high in the gay populations of the UK’s big cities, then we all need to be aware, and take responsibility. In short answer to Patrick, a little compassion, and an understanding of hubris, are perhaps what you need.
For me, I take responsibility, and manage my disease. Occasionally I beat myself up about getting it in the first place, and I regularly thank my luck that the treatments I need are available, and that I live in a place where they are provided.
Returning to the question, unfortunately, it is the prevalence of people like me that has made HIV prevention campaigns so hard to do. We are no-longer haunting the gay scene with haggard looks or emaciated appearances. But I tell anyone who will listen how the medications impacted on my life, and how I wish I didn’t have to take them.
I think we do have to put HIV in its place: it is preventable, and as diseases go, it’s mostly no longer a horrendous diagnosis as one of cancer, or other terminal and dis-figuring diseases. And as gay me in general get older, more of us are going to start experiencing the diseases of ageing, cancer amongst them. As a group (and bearing my previous Venn diagram point), gay men are more likely to have indulged in drug use, and to use alcohol. As a sub-group of men, also have, albeit to a lesser degree, our genders’ predisposition to wait until health issues are bad before we address them.
It is these factors that I think have conspired to make HIV campaigns a thing of the past, a faded glory that those of involved in them (I was a volunteer with GMFA, and worked at Rubberstuffers) look back on and think why don’t we do that anymore.
It’s true that THT, and to a lesser degree GMFA, have faded, but I would argue that primarily because the energy and dynamism that created them has either expired or worn out. And it’s hard to launch campaigns when the treatments, for most people, appear to make HIV no more than a chronic illness, like diabetes or asthma: both of which by the way are not nice to live with.
And there’s the reason for my posting; the truth of the matter is that GMFA, THT and Rubberstuffers weren’t Government creations. They came from individual gay men, and quite a few lesbians, who had fight in their bellies and compassion in their hearts, and saw that actually, although we see ourselves as separate, individual, and in some cases (I point no fingers here…) not like those awful promiscuous gays, the truth is that many people, especially those in authority and power, still see us as a single group, and really don’t care whether we live or die, just as long as we don’t upset things.
I could quote Pastor Martin Niemöller here, but I think that may be a tad over-kill. What I will say is if you want to do something, start at home, with yourself. I’m busy trying to engage with and on behalf of HIV positive people; gay and straight, male and female. We have a role to play, but so do those who are negative, and even more so those who don’t know what their status is. Safe sex is a two (or more) man operation. HIV prevention similarly so.
And if anybody is interested in resurrecting the good old ‘group of gay men giving out condoms and information in bars and clubs’ initiatives, I’m ready and waiting!
Beautifully and eloquently said Mark. Thank you.
Why has the HIV/AIDS community felt that protectionism was an option, with hugh amounts of monies for treatment and social care has not always been in the interest of all, that consultation with the HIV/AIDS community by either local authroities or others to help address the needs and support of those living with the virus. How many times have people been told you have six months to live and have far outweight expectations.
How have we let the ASG of which only 3% is used for direct payments in which we are tought self-empowerment, choice, options. Who are making decisions that will affect the 93,000 people know to be living with HIV and for some will have a devistating effect.
I thought the hit at Peter Tatchell in this article was well below the belt.
The basic reason people are less careful is that HIV is (accurately or not) much less dangerous than it once was
Good article. Surely the issue is that the “messages” are not strong enough.
Back in the 80′s (cue booing and anti-Maggie vitriol) the adverts on the TV, with the headstones and the icebergs, frightened the sh*t out of everyone (might be a coincidence that the then Prime Minister was a former scientist and understood about epidemic), and Britain shortly afterwards had one of the lowest infection rates in the world.
If the messages are cute and fluffy, and people are told it won’t kill you, then they take their eye off the ball (or the c*ck, as the case may be). Then rates go back up.
Of course immmigration is a big factor in the increase in rates, but I suppose no politician will want to discuss that.
The message should be as clear as it was in the 80′s. It will kill you, and this is the way to avoid it. Then things will change
WHEN DID GAY MEN STOP FIGHTING HIV?
I started on 4 July 1982, Not a day has gone by when I haven’t corrected a forum post, or warned a friend of the dangers in unsafe practices, up to appearing on TV to spread the word.
As Gay men we have a responsibility to protect ourselves and others while educating the young – Like we always have.
I would call for a compulsory warning at the start of EVERY porn film. And a Banner advert leading to a recognised HIV advisory website on EVERY dating site or application. These measures would cost the government and charity’s nothing – But target the misinformation that barebacking is cool – and remind guys looking for a meet that the HIV issues should be recognised and discussed.