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  • « GNW 5: Bad news from D.C. | Main | A refreshing HIV prevention message »

    November 28, 2007

    HIV is again on the rise

    Posted by: Chris

    Aids_ribbons Just in time for Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, there is bad news about rising HIV infection rates among gay and bisexual men, in the United States and beyond. Don’t turn the page just yet. This isn’t yet another alert about yet more “alarming” HIV rates or a dire warning about a “second wave” of infections.

    They may not have come up with a vaccine to make us immune from HIV, but we’re almost completely immune to these repeated cries of AIDS “wolf.” Too many cogs in the AIDS, Inc. machine – from pharmaceutical companies, HIV organizations and politicians hording government AIDS dollars – have a self-interest in promoting “alarming” data on the epidemic. So we tune them out almost instinctively.

    This time, however, is different. It’s not one study; it’s many, and they all show an undeniable increase in HIV infections among men who have sex with men:

    • The rate of new infections among gay men under 30 in New York City rose 33 percent from 2001 to 2006.
    • As many as 1 in 22 gay and bi men in Florida is infected, with rates reaching 1 in 11 gay white men in Fort Lauderdale, 1 in 13 gay black men in Palm Beach and 1 in 12 gay Latinos in Miami-Dade.
    • New infections among gay and bi men in the U.K. are at record levels, with an estimated 1 in 20 infected nationwide and 1 in 10 in London.
    • In Australia, HIV infection rates have risen by a third in the last decade, with 88 percent of transmissions occurring through gay sex.

    Then came the big one: a report this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that overall, the number of gay and bisexual men in the U.S. with HIV or AIDS has risen 13 percent in just the last four years.

    The authors of the JAMA report put a lot of the blame for that increase on the fact that most of us don’t know our HIV status. One study cited in the report found some 77 percent of the gay and bi men infected with HIV were unaware they were positive; 91 percent of black gay and bi men did not know they were infected.

    The report also pointed to another cause that anyone who’s sexually active already knows intuitively: Sex without condoms has become more and more common, especially among young gay guys, as rebounding rates of syphilis among gay and bi men also testify.

    The reasons are also no mystery. Most sexually active gay and bisexual men weren’t around for the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic, never cared for dying lovers and friends and didn’t attend funeral after funeral for men cut down before they turned 30.

    The drug cocktail has transformed AIDS into a treatable, if not curable, disease, and the conservative political climate has diverted too much funding into abstinence at the expense of safe sex prevention efforts.

    The rising infection rates will undoubtedly result in calls for additional funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, and no doubt those additional dollars are needed. But the grab for cash ought to be coupled with a hard look at whether we’re throwing good money after bad.

    I'll offer a few of my own prevention ideas tomorrow.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For complete news coverage, click or bookmark: www.gaynewswatch.com/hivaids

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    Comments

    1. Hank Wilson on Nov 28, 2007 2:46:29 PM:

      A small but important factor for a subset of gay men: poppers use. Research indicates that poppers use is fueling some of the new HIV infections. Prevalence of use has risen significantly in a context of widespread internet promotion by the poppers industry and a lack of attention to poppers use from the HIV prevention effort. Education is lacking and younger guys missed out on the health debate about poppers. There is no enforcement of the federal ban on sales and distribution of poppers...there has been only a single prosecution by the anemic Consumer Products Safety Commission since the 1991 ban became law.

      www.poppers.cfsites.org

      for a listing of the numerous published research reports finding poppers immunosuppressive. The concern is that a temporarily( immediately after you sniff for up to 96 hours) suppressed immune system makes you more susceptible to infection if you are exposed to HIV...and poppers disinhibition effect increases likelihood of risky sex.Poppers use also dilates blood vessels facilitating easier entry into the body. Compound risks, possibly all operating simultaneously in some users.
      Putting poppers use on the radar screen should be a component of a multiprong strategy which is needed to turn the tide against rising infections.

      Prevalence of poppers use is high. The recent large 4200 HIV- gay men study found baseline recent popper use at 37% which rose to 52% recent use at study end two years later. That was in a prevention intervention study. It underscores that no message is a message. There was no message about poppers use increasing susceptibility to infections.

      GOOGLE could stop its sponsored ads for poppers for starters. Poppers are illegal to sell.

      At one time syphilis and gonorreha used to kill people, rich people too.Treatments became available and condom use almost disappeared prior to the start of AIDS epidemic, except as pregancy prevention. In the USA,Europe,Canada,Australia,HIV is not the killer it used to be. However,there are still adjustments which can reduce infections amidst the climate of less fear and less condoms.

      Steamworks Baths in Berkeley stopped selling poppers in response to HIV prevention concerns back in the 80s. Steamworks in Chicago and Toronto sell poppers. Stop the promotion and sales.

      Looking forward to the multiprong strategy. Hank

    1. Kevin on Nov 28, 2007 3:08:44 PM:

      Poppers? I don't think I've seen anyone use poppers in anything but a bad porno movie in a long, long, long time.

    1. Nick on Nov 28, 2007 8:46:15 PM:

      I am a 28 year old gay male, and I must say, I have had unprotected sex in the past year about 3 times, with complete strangers I did not know, its usually after a late night of drinking, my point is no amount of education or safe sex blah blah is gona change young gay men, the reality is shit happens, as men our hormones take over our brains, YES its wrong to have unsafesex, actually its FUCKING STUPID after reading these statistics but the reality is. Shit just happens. and you regret it the next day, and you swear you will never do it again. I hope to God I never put my self to risk at all any more.

    1. Nick on Nov 28, 2007 8:47:48 PM:

      I am a 28 year old gay male, and I must say, I have had unprotected sex in the past year about 3 times, with complete strangers I did not know, its usually after a late night of drinking, my point is no amount of education or safe sex blah blah is gona change young gay men, the reality is shit happens, as men our hormones take over our brains, YES its wrong to have unsafesex, actually its FUCKING STUPID after reading these statistics but the reality is. Shit just happens. and you regret it the next day, and you swear you will never do it again. I hope to God I never put my self to risk at all any more.

    1. John on Nov 29, 2007 4:18:49 AM:

      One of my bisexual friends from FindBilover.com said that he would bring the condom everywhere, anytime.

    1. Kevin on Nov 29, 2007 9:39:59 AM:

      Nick:

      Be true to your word. If you're not, then it's your responsibility, not the world's. Not your hormones'. Not the alcohol's. It's yours.

      Gay men are not morally exempt from personal responsibility.

    1. Matt on Nov 29, 2007 1:13:25 PM:

      Jesus, Nick, what a piece of work you are. I'm sure every gay man who reads this site agrees with your assessment of the power of hormones and the male sex drive.

      But thank God some of us have more sense than you do. We are human beings, not wild animals, and saying "shit happens" just isn't good enough in a civilized society.

      We can all be cavalier in the West about this disease with our drugs and our money, but what about the rest of the world and the effect we have on them? What about Americans who get drunk and have unsafe sex with an immigrant who goes back to, say, Africa who then wipes out their village?

      People in poor countries are still acquiring and dying by the millions from a disease that was originally fueled by the gay community, and for Christ's sake, we need to grow up and take some responsibility.

      I used to work in international development. I've been to villages in countries like Swaziland where two out of every five adults has HIV. I've watched too many mothers holding too many dying children to shrug this thing off with a "shit happens" attitude.

      We might be tempted to say that's Africa's problem, but it is largely, in a very real sense, our own fault. At some point we need to start thinking about the rest of the human race.

      "Shit happens," indeed.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Nov 29, 2007 2:57:16 PM:

      Easy, guys.

      The most important thing in Nick's comment is that last statement.

      I hope to God I never put my self to risk at all any more.

      That's a start, Nick.

      Now you have to move from merely hoping to making it a reality.

      Like Kevin said, it's a matter of personal responsibility. You know it feels good to hop in the sack, to just do it without protection....but you also know there's going to be a morning after, a "Jesus what did I do that for", months of worrying and waiting until that test comes back negative.

      And you have to make that choice of whether three months of hell is worth one night of heaven.

      You might choose the one night; that's your prerogative. But if you do, that's where Matt's comment comes in; take some social responsibility. Let people know you f*ck bare. Let people know you don't know whether you have HIV or not. And if f*cking without condoms is a non-negotiable to you, let them know right up front. If you won't protect yourself, at least have the decency to let others protect themselves.

    1. Kevin on Nov 29, 2007 4:44:37 PM:

      Matt's especially funny when he puts his hands on this hips and wiggles them back and forth when he testily lectures a twink ;-)

      I think it's so hot when he does that.

    1. Matt on Nov 30, 2007 12:39:47 AM:

      I love the twinks until I begin to see how difficult it is to find ones who at least acted someone similarly to me. Also makes it much easier to date older, especially when you don't have to compromise your sense of aesthetics.

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