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    March 01, 2010

    AIDS, the gay retro virus

    Posted by: Chris

    Hiv aids rates among msms
    More sobering news that the retrovirus that causes AIDS has itself gone retro, impacting much gay men in percentages that rival the disease's devastation in sub-Saharan Africa:

    In several U.S. urban areas, the HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is as high as 30%—as compared with a general-population prevalence of 7.8% in Kenya and 16.9% in South Africa.

    The reason, according to research in the New England Journal of Medicine, is that the epidemic is "generalized" among African populations, but not so here in the U.S., where it's not just concentrated geographically but within particular social networks.

    That's led to a rethinking of HIV prevention efforts, which for years have focused on specific high-risk transmission behaviors, like unprotected sex, IV drug use, promiscuity and the like. We've all heard that, among gay men in particular, "the use of drugs such as crystal methamphetamine — especially at sex parties and in venues such as bathhouses — has contributed to risky behavior and HIV acquisition."

    But now AIDS researchers are, in some senses, going back to where they started, looking at whether the strongest indicator of whether a person is at high risk of being infected is his "social-sexual network," especially in big cities in the Northeast and West Coast, as well as the South.

    The extent of the risk of acquiring HIV in the United States today is largely defined by a person's sexual network rather than his or her individual behaviors. Understanding the context and settings in which risk is increased may lead to more robust and effective preventive interventions.

    For example, black men who have sex with men are at increased risk for HIV infection in part because of its high prevalence in their sexual networks and their likelihood of choosing racially similar partners; they have also been shown to be less likely than their white counterparts to be aware of their HIV status and thus are more likely to unknowingly transmit HIV. Moreover, even those who are aware of their HIV infection may be less engaged in HIV care and less likely to avail themselves of antiretroviral therapy — behavior that limits the potential benefit of such therapy as a preventive strategy. …

    Research is also needed to identify interventions that will persuade men who have sex with men to undergo HIV testing, facilitate their disclosure of their HIV status to sexual partners, and promote negotiations for safer sexual practices; such interventions need to be implemented in the settings where such men may meet (e.g., in bars or on the Internet). 

    Manhunt_loginMore research, yes. But while we wait for more data, the time is now for the government and the non-profit groups that make up AIDS, Inc., and Gay, Inc., to launch aggressive new prevention campaigns that meet gay men where they are, and give them the information they need to lower their risk of infection.

    Enough with the tired safe-sex messages that the younger set especially stopped listening to long ago. Handing out condoms in bars won't cut it anymore. What we need are creative prevention campaigns that are deployed on the social networks like Facebook, Twitter and the sites where gay men meet to hook up -- from Manhunt to Adam4Adam to Craigslist.

    It's high time for HIV/AIDS prevention to enter the 21st century.



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    1. twitter.com/bigolpoofter on Mar 2, 2010 12:01:40 PM:

      I'm not sure which irks me more: the notion of "campaigns" as a panacea, instead of good old-fashioned one-on-one, in-group affirmation and encouragement around more healthful choices (e.g. using barriers); or "social-sexual networks" which sure sounds like a gussied-up way of round-about stigmatization of certain groups one proposes to reach, then conflating such networks with websites (and mobile phone apps) through which members of such networks engage. An even tougher choice, though, when there's the "good Gay" versus "evil Gay" fable that unfolds by converging the discussion of sex clubs, stimulant abuse, and multiple sex partners at the exclusion of other contributors to infection like misplaced trust, misinformation (no, the HIV test isn't good for 6 months!), and compartmentalization.
      Honestly, despite almost 30 years of community experience, the narrative around abating HIV transmission has changed little, beyond no longer mentioning hemophiliacs and other recipients of blood-derived medical products. We still speak about populations and the pressures upon them, instead of individuals and the decisions they take based on limited information and the drive to feel physically intimate with another human being or the need to achieve a chemical high. As a culture and as individuals, we sexualize and objectify others freely in words and pictures, then laud chastity and fidelity of any other form of relationship. And we repeat "teach negotiation" as a mantra while scarcely leveraging any manner of social venues --outside of kinky spaces-- to impart these skills to others.... Oh, bugger! More to the point, we seem to have lost the basic ability to claim our sexual pleasures in the midst of our everyday identities, such that casual conversations about sex, much less negotiation, are few and far between.
      Once upon a time, Queermen made a dent in HIV infection rates on our own; and we will again soon, I hope, by treasuring our own bodies and minds, caring for our brothers as ourselves, claiming our sexual pleasures, and holding those expectations as a social norm once more.

    1. Terry Michael on May 10, 2010 6:55:54 PM:


      What we need, Chris, is to stop the hysteria over a mysterious retrovirus associated with an amorphous syndrome, neither of which is a disease. Immune deficiency is something real, that happens for a multitude of reasons, and happened in gay men clustered in urban areas by the early 1980's, incestuously and repeatedly exchanging old pathogens; making unprecedented use of toxins like cocaine, amphetamines, nitrites, etc; and suffering from the psychogenic effects of anxiety, depression and fear from being a hated minority, as the religious right reared its ugly head--all of which had immuno-suppressive effects and which, in the way an actuary could understand, damaged a subset of immune systems in that cohort, making ill and killing many until the late 1980's and early 1990's, when it rapidly subsided.
      Then, we proceeded to damage the health and kill tens of thousands in the late 1980's and early 1990's with AZT, some of the most toxic chemotherapy on the planet. And then, in the mid-1990's, we started feeding weaker chemo for life to "HIV positives" with NO PRESENTING ILLNESS, damaging the health of a couple of generations of gay men now, who are suffering the iatrogenic diseases caused by the euphemistically-named HAART.
      (See this New York Magazine feature and video of the horrific effects of HAART:

      We have no epidemic of AIDS, we have an epidemic of testing for a set of blood proteins, that can be caused by anything. 90% of the so-called AIDS cases are now defined by T-cell counts, NOT by presenting illness.
      You and I have discussed this many times Chris, yet you continue to spread this mis-information and refuse to post links to anything I have written on this subject. If your readers would like to learn the truth about the AIDS epidemic that ISN'T, either here or in Africa, they can read the long piece I have written at my web site:
      End to AIDS Nearer Than We Think?
      ...plus a lot of other stuff I and others have written on the subject linked in that piece.
      Please Chris, allow your readers to hear the thousands of voices like mine who questions the HIV=AIDS paradigm. Post something about the excellent film, House of Numbers, that questions the HIV=AIDS paradign, the trailer for which is linked here:
      ...and let readers be aware of what Luc Montagnier himself has said about HIV and AIDS, contradicting the nonsense about AIDS in Africa, which is nothing but old immune suppressive conditions like malnutrition and lack of clean drinking water and old diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. Let them learn that in Canada in 2007 (most recent figures) Canada's version of the CDC reported a TOTAL of 238 new "AIDS" cases in a country of 34 million--about the number of people hit by trucks or struck by lightning in a country that is virtually another U.S. state in its similarity to ours, but which demands that you have a presenting illness, not just some arbitrary T-cell count, before your immune system can be said to be deficient.

      For god's sake, Chris, you are an excellent journalist and one of the smartest people I know. Treat this subject like a skeptical journalist, not just another HIV-AIDS Industry propagandist.
      Your friend,

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