Activists: Government to blame for unsafe gay sex

An op-ed in the Boston Globe by two gay activists, Rebecca Haag and Douglas Brooks, reports CDC findings that "[m]en who have sex with men are 44 times more likely to contract HIV than other men."  The authors' analysis offers a staggering refusal to accept any personal responsibility for reckless behavior:

[H]ow did we end up back at the beginning with gay and bisexual men so vulnerable to infection?

"Vulnerable"?  You are vulnerable to pneumonia, not unsafe sex.

We're here because we've watered down prevention messages.

The use of "we" is misleading.  What the authors mean is, "gay men are here because the government has watered down prevention messages," implying that gay men have no control over their actions without guidance from the authorities.  How insulting.

Explicit public campaigns about how to stay safe have been replaced with simplistic messages about condoms. If we have learned anything about preventing HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men in the last 25 year we've learned this: it's not about condoms; it's about dignity.  As long as men who have sex with men are at a higher risk for mental illness, trauma, and substance abuse - which they are thanks in large part to the stigma attached to being gay or engaging in gay sex - they are going to be more likely to engage in risky behaviors.

This is a strange argument to bring up given the history of labeling homosexuality as a mental illness.  In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  Studies have shown no higher incidents of mental illness in homosexuality:

Gonsiorek [1982] concluded that "Homosexuality in and of itself is unrelated to psychological disturbance or maladjustment. Homosexuals as a group are not more psychologically disturbed on account of their homosexuality."

Other studies report inconclusive findings:

... given the stresses created by sexual stigma and prejudice, it would be surprising if some of them did not manifest psychological problems (Meyer, 2003). The data from some studies suggest that, although most sexual minority individuals are well adjusted, nonheterosexuals may be at somewhat heightened risk for depression, anxiety, and related problems, compared to exclusive heterosexuals (Cochran & Mays, 2006).

Haag and Brooks continue:

While many are tempted to blame the victim - after all, it's not 1985 anymore - it accomplishes nothing. Wagging our fingers does little else than relieve us of the hard work of trying to better understand and influence human behavior. The difficulty of maintaining safer sex practices in every single sexual encounter over an entire lifetime is daunting.

Compare it to being told you have high cholesterol and need to eat a low-fat diet....

In 1985, the heyday of the bathhouse, gay activists lobbied to prohibit public health messages that condemned promiscuous gay sex-what the Haag and Brooks describe as "explicit public campaigns about how to stay safe."  Their actions contributed to the decimation of a generation of gay men.  How can we still read today that "the difficulty of maintaining safer sex practices...is daunting"?  Unsafe sex between men is not high cholesterol; it's Russian roulette.   Condoms, abstinence and fidelity to an HIV-negative partner seem like pretty small sacrifices.

So what should we be doing? Comprehensive sex education in our schools is a must.

As if this doesn't already exist?

Dollars for research into human sexual behavior and influencing habits and change is [sic] critical. We need to continue the hard work of eradicating bias. Federal and state governments must fund prevention efforts directed at men who have sex with men that are as varied and diverse as the gay community itself.

Ah yes, dollars.  More dollars.

This is not an occasion to attack homosexuality.  It is an occasion to reproach the so-called advocates who blame irresponsible behavior on anyone but the individuals who have control of their own lives.  You can't blame the victim if that person refuses to see himself as a victim.
An op-ed in the Boston Globe by two gay activists, Rebecca Haag and Douglas Brooks, reports CDC findings that "[m]en who have sex with men are 44 times more likely to contract HIV than other men."  The authors' analysis offers a staggering refusal to accept any personal responsibility for reckless behavior:

[H]ow did we end up back at the beginning with gay and bisexual men so vulnerable to infection?

"Vulnerable"?  You are vulnerable to pneumonia, not unsafe sex.

We're here because we've watered down prevention messages.

The use of "we" is misleading.  What the authors mean is, "gay men are here because the government has watered down prevention messages," implying that gay men have no control over their actions without guidance from the authorities.  How insulting.

Explicit public campaigns about how to stay safe have been replaced with simplistic messages about condoms. If we have learned anything about preventing HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men in the last 25 year we've learned this: it's not about condoms; it's about dignity.  As long as men who have sex with men are at a higher risk for mental illness, trauma, and substance abuse - which they are thanks in large part to the stigma attached to being gay or engaging in gay sex - they are going to be more likely to engage in risky behaviors.

This is a strange argument to bring up given the history of labeling homosexuality as a mental illness.  In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  Studies have shown no higher incidents of mental illness in homosexuality:

Gonsiorek [1982] concluded that "Homosexuality in and of itself is unrelated to psychological disturbance or maladjustment. Homosexuals as a group are not more psychologically disturbed on account of their homosexuality."

Other studies report inconclusive findings:

... given the stresses created by sexual stigma and prejudice, it would be surprising if some of them did not manifest psychological problems (Meyer, 2003). The data from some studies suggest that, although most sexual minority individuals are well adjusted, nonheterosexuals may be at somewhat heightened risk for depression, anxiety, and related problems, compared to exclusive heterosexuals (Cochran & Mays, 2006).

Haag and Brooks continue:

While many are tempted to blame the victim - after all, it's not 1985 anymore - it accomplishes nothing. Wagging our fingers does little else than relieve us of the hard work of trying to better understand and influence human behavior. The difficulty of maintaining safer sex practices in every single sexual encounter over an entire lifetime is daunting.

Compare it to being told you have high cholesterol and need to eat a low-fat diet....

In 1985, the heyday of the bathhouse, gay activists lobbied to prohibit public health messages that condemned promiscuous gay sex-what the Haag and Brooks describe as "explicit public campaigns about how to stay safe."  Their actions contributed to the decimation of a generation of gay men.  How can we still read today that "the difficulty of maintaining safer sex practices...is daunting"?  Unsafe sex between men is not high cholesterol; it's Russian roulette.   Condoms, abstinence and fidelity to an HIV-negative partner seem like pretty small sacrifices.

So what should we be doing? Comprehensive sex education in our schools is a must.

As if this doesn't already exist?

Dollars for research into human sexual behavior and influencing habits and change is [sic] critical. We need to continue the hard work of eradicating bias. Federal and state governments must fund prevention efforts directed at men who have sex with men that are as varied and diverse as the gay community itself.

Ah yes, dollars.  More dollars.

This is not an occasion to attack homosexuality.  It is an occasion to reproach the so-called advocates who blame irresponsible behavior on anyone but the individuals who have control of their own lives.  You can't blame the victim if that person refuses to see himself as a victim.

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