It Takes Brains

 

THE SYNDEMIC OF STDS AMONG GAY MEN

By Dale O'Leary

November 30, 2012

It has been over 30 years since the first gay[1] men were diagnosed with what would later be called AIDS. Since then over 300,000 men who have sex with men (MSM) have died of AIDS, and 6,000 are expected to die this year and every year for the foreseeable future. In 2008, 17,940 MSM were diagnosed with HIV infections, an increase of 17% from 2005. MSM accounted for 53% of all new infections. It is estimated that one half million MSM are currently infected with HIV. According to a report from the CDC, one in five sexually active gay and bisexuals is carrying the AIDS virus and nearly half of those infected don’t know it. MSM are 44 to 86 times more likely to be diagnosed HIV positive than men who don’t.[2]

The continuing spread of HIV among MSM is not a simple epidemic, but a syndemic.

A syndemic occurs when a number of different and interrelated health problems come together and interact. The various elements of the syndemic have an additive effect, each one intensifying the others. According to an article by Dr. Ron Stall and associates, an analysis of the data from a large number of studies reveals that:

…additive psychosocial health problems — otherwise known collectively as a syndemic — exist among urban MSM and that the interconnection of these problems functions to magnify the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this population. A variation of this question has been empirically tested since the very earliest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in that substantial literature now exists on the relationship between substance use and HIV/AIDS,[3] depression and HIV/AIDS[4], childhood sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS[5], and violence and HIV/AIDS[6]. Our analysis extends this literature to show that the connection among these epidemic health problems and HIV/AIDS is far more complex than a 1-to-1 relationship; rather it is the additive interplay of these health problems that magnifies the vulnerability of a population to serious health conditions such as HIV/AIDS.[7]

In addition to the effects of depression, drug use, and a history of childhood abuse and/or violence on HIV infection rates, MSM are more likely to suffer from other psychological disorders, paraphilias,[8] and sexual addiction and compulsion.[9] They are far more likely to be diagnosed with any of an array of other sexually transmitted disease (STDs), some of which have become resistant to commonly used antibiotics[10], and some of which can make them more vulnerable to infection with HIV.[11] They are more likely than other men to engage in a wide variety of sexual practices which have the potential to spread STDs, to do so with a larger number of partners in venues which cater to multiple and anonymous sexual encounters. And in spite of the known risks, gay activists have consistently — and in many cases successfully — resisted proven public health strategies for the prevention of the transmission of STDs.[12]

The STD Epidemic before AIDS

It was not an accident that the AIDS epidemic first struck the gay community. Even before the first gay man was infected with the virus, gay men were already in the midst of an epidemic of STDs.

In the 1970s, physicians were treating the large number of conditions affecting the lower in­testinal tract of MSM under the classification “gay bowel syndrome.” These in­cluded viral infec­tions, infectious diarrheal dis­eases caused by bac­teria and parasites, and injuries caused by anal sexual activ­ity. Infectious agents included Shigella sonnei, Shi­gella flexneri, Campylobacter enteritis, Campy­lobacter jejuni, or Salmonella enteritis; intesti­nal parasites such as Giardia lamblia, Enta­moeba histo­lytica, and Entamoeba coli; herpes simplex (HSV) and Chlamydia tra­chomatis.

According to Randy Shilts, author of The Band Played On, a gay man who later died of AIDS:

In San Francisco, inci­dence of the “Gay Bowel Syndrome,” as it was called in medical jour­nals, had increased by 8,000 percent after 1973. Infec­tion with these parasites was a likely effect of anal intercourse, which was apt to put a man in contact with his partner’s fecal matter, and was virtually a cer­tainty through the then-popular prac­tice of rim­ming, which medical jour­nals politely called oral-anal intercourse.[13]

At one point, health of­ficials, uneducated as to homosexual practices, were so concerned about an unex­pected outbreak of dysentery in the Greenwich Village section of New York City that they or­dered an inspection of the water supply, fearing contamina­tion with raw sewage.[14]

In addition, MSM were at risk for syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis (HAV, HBV HCV), cytomegalovirus (HCMV), Epstein-Barr, cancer causing human papilloma virus (HPV) chancrodie, lymphogranuloma vereum, granuloma ingui­nale, pediculosis (pubic lice), pinworms, scabies, and fleabites. Many MSM had multi­ple recurrences of the same disease. Research revealed that “the number of different lifetime sexual partners was the very best predictor of previous infections with syphilis, gonorrhea, and other sex-related infections.”[15]

During the pre-AIDS period, infection with a STD carried no stigma within the gay community. The ritual of repeated infection and treatment had become part of the homosexual lifestyle:

Gay men were being washed by tide after tide of increas­ingly serious in­fec­tions. First, it was syphilis and gonorrhea. Gay men made up about 80 per­cent of the 70,000 annual patient visits to the city’s (San Francisco) VD clinic. Easy treat­ment had im­bued them with such a cavalier attitude toward venereal dis­eases that many gay men saved their waiting-line numbers, like little to­kens of desirability, and the clinic was considered an easy place to pick up both a shot and a date. Then came hepatitis A and the enteric parasites, followed by the pro­lifera­tion of hepatitis B, a dis­ease that had transformed it­self, via the popularity of anal intercourse, from a blood-borne scourge into a vene­real disease.[16]

Doctors were pessimistic:

Education of gay men to limit the nature and numbers of their sexual part­ners is unlikely to be productive on a large scale … traditional contact tracing is not productive in populations with large numbers of anonymous sexual contacts.[17]

According to Shilts, “Promiscuity … was central to the raucous gay movement of the 1970s.” By 1980:

The fight against venereal dis­ease was proving a Sisyphean task … one in ten pa­tients had walked in the door with hepatitis-B. At least one-half of the gay men tested at the clinic showed evidence of a past episode of hepatitis-B. In San Fran­cisco, two-thirds of gay men had suffered from the de­bilitating dis­ease. It was now proven statistically that gay men had a one in five chance of being infected with the hepatitis-B vi­rus within twelve months of stepping off the bus into a typi­cal urban gay scene. Within five years, infection was a virtual cer­tainty.[18]

What was so troubling was that nobody in the gay community seemed to care about these waves of in­fection. Ever since he had worked at the New York City Department of Public Health, Dan Williams had deliv­ered his lecture about the dan­gers of undiag­nosed venereal diseases and, in particu­lar, such practices as rimming. But he had his “regulars” who came in with infection af­ter infection, waiting for the magic bullet that could put them back in the sack again. Williams began to feel like a parent as he ad­mon­ished the boys: “I have to tell you that you’re being very unhealthy.”[19]

In the fall of 1980, Dr. Selma Dritz, the infectious disease specialist for the San Francisco Depart­ment of Public Health, warned;

Too much is being transmitted … We’ve got all these diseases going un­checked. There are so many oppor­tunities for trans­mission that, if something new gets loose here, we’re go­ing to have hell to pay.[20]

Even as she spoke, the infectious agent Dr. Dritz feared was already spreading through the gay community.

HIV/AIDS

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is not easily transmitted. It requires fluid-to-fluid contact, but HIV has a long latency pe­riod before the infected person’s health deteriorates and during which he is capable of infecting others. Once a homosexually active man became in­fected with HIV and visited a commercial sex establishment, where men routinely had unprotected in­sertive and receptive anal intercourse with several part­ners in a single evening, an epidemic was inevita­ble. However, given the long latency period, it was several years before anyone realized that a deadly disease was spreading through the gay community

When an infectious disease is in­tro­duced into a susceptible population, the speed at which it spreads depends on the number of con­tacts between infected and uninfected per­sons. Epidemiologists working to understand the spread of HIV/AIDS con­ducted in-depth interviews with pa­tients. They were shocked by the sheer number of sexual partners reported. Among the first gay AIDS cases, the typical number of sexual partners was over 1,000. [21]

A study conducted in the Balti­more STD clinic revealed how quickly HIV infec­tion spread. In 1983, the HIV seropreva­lence among MSM was 14%. One year later, it had jumped to 58%.[22]

During the first decade of the epidemic, HIV infection was the equivalent of a death sentence. HIV infection doesn’t kill outright, but destroys the immune system, making its victims prone to a range of other diseases, some of which under other conditions would have been treatable. The first victims died of pneumocystis pneumonia. The failure of their immune systems left victims vulnerable to a host of diseases, including toxoplasmosis (a cat disease), crypococcal meningitis, candidiasis, severe herpes, cryptosporidium (a parasite that affects sheep), encephalitis, and a fulminate form Kaposi’s sarcoma (a skin cancer previously found mainly in older men of Mediterranean origin).

AIDS Exceptionalism

By late February of 1982, 251 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS and 99 had died.[23] Although the pathogen responsible had not been identified, experts were convinced that they were dealing with a disease caused by a virus and transmitted by sex and blood, and that the gay bathhouses were a likely venue for transmission, since many of the first victims could be linked to these establishments.

When Dr. Dan Williams, a prominent gay NY physician, suggested that bathhouses be required to post signs warning patrons about the danger of infection, the gay community reacted angrily, refusing to consider anything that would turn back the sexual liberation the bathhouses represented. Williams was castigated as a ‘monogamist’ and accused of stirring up unnecessary panic and fear.[24]

By 1985, the pathogen that causes AIDS had been identified, the modes of transmission known, and a test developed to identify those infected. All that would have been necessary at that point was to test all MSM, and encourage positives to have sex only with positives, negatives with negatives. Positive/negative couples should use condoms for every encounter to avoid fluid exchange.

The gay community rejected this plan and all strategies perceived as endangering the absolute sexual liberation of gay men. Instead, they proposed a “condom code:” Everyone should use a condom every time. No one needed to be tested unless they wanted too. All testing information should be absolutely confidential to avoid outing gay men. The gay AIDS activists rejected the standard public health procedures used for other STDs, namely:

…routine testing for infection often undertaken without explicit patient consent; reporting to local health authorities of the names of those who test positive for infection: contact tracing, or identification of any people who may have been exposed to infection; and notification of those possible infected persons.[25]

Instead, the names of the infected would not be reported. There would be no routine testing, no contact tracing, no notification of possibly infected persons. The right to privacy was paramount. No one had a moral responsibility to tell their sexual partners they were HIV positive. According to a pamphlet from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, “Safer Sex for HIV Positives”:

If you follow [the guideline to use condoms], you don’t need to worry about whether your partners know that you’re posi­tive. You’ve already protected them from infection and your­self from reinfection. Just use your judgment about who to tell — there’s still discrimination out there.

Under the ‘condom code’ MSM could go on engaging in anal sex with multiple and/or anonymous partners. Given the known failure rate of condoms, this was not a prevention programs, but a risk ‘reduction’ program. In an opinion piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, Ronald Bayer expressed concern because:

…many of the traditional practices of public health that might have been brought to bear were dismissed as inappropriate.[26]

Initially, some gay men changed their behavior and new infections declined. The “condom code” was deemed a success. However, research into the behavior gay men found that many were not following the code. A 1985 survey of gay men in San Francisco found that:[27]

…only 30% of our respon­dents reported having maintained completely or probably safe sexual prac­tices during both re­porting periods, which means that 70% of the men we sur­veyed had regularly en­gaged in sexual practices capable of ex­posing them to HIV infec­tion.[28]

In a sample of New York City gay men, 49.6% reported they had not changed their behav­ior.[29] In another sample, 67% of gay men admitted engag­ing in anal intercourse without condoms during the previous year.[30]

Many of those who initially adopted safer sex practices failed to persist. According to one study:

It is sobering to note that the most common pattern was the persistence of risky sexual acts with mul­tiple partners. How­ever, one-third had chosen a compromise that preserved both an important dimen­sion of their gay life-style as well as their health: they limited their sexual acts to those consid­ered safe, often through the use of condoms, but had mul­tiple (often anonymous) sexual partners.[31]

It appears, then, that some of the factors associated with the continued par­tici­pation in high-risk sexual behavior are resis­tant to current educative in­ter­vention. Educational cam­paigns, however well exe­cuted and well inten­tioned, have been insufficient to stem the spread of HIV infections.[32]

The problem was not ignorance:

Most of the men in our sample were highly edu­cated, mature adults. All were well informed about the transmissibility of AIDS through sexual ac­tivity and could describe the specific measures necessary to pro­tect against infec­tion. Yet even under these relatively ideal conditions, the large major­ity of these in­formed men did not adopt and maintain behavior to the extent neces­sary to prevent HIV infec­tion in themselves or oth­ers.

The findings suggest that the mere transfer of in­formation concerning safer sex practices is not suffi­cient to induce the desired behavior changes in a substantial proportion of gay men.[33]

The authors acknowledged the “mass behavior change” necessary to stop the trans­mission of HIV would be difficult because gay men would have to change sexual practices that:

are cul­turally defined in­terpersonal acts that have deep psychological meaning.[34]

These deeply meaningful interpersonal acts included using body parts and orifices in ways that not only spread infection, but involved risk of serious injury, with large numbers of virtual strangers.

Gay AIDS activists insisted that AIDS education must be sex positive, avoid moralizing, and not distinguish between those who were HIV positive and those who were HIV negative. The gay AIDS establishment defended the right of infected persons to remain ignorant of their condition and the right of infected persons to conceal their contagious condition from oth­ers, including sexual partners and health care personnel. They wanted gay bathhouses keep open, arguing that they could be places to impart prevention education and distribute condoms. [35]

Prevention efforts were focused on self-pro­tection rather than the duty to pro­tect others:

It was considered crucial to ar­ticulate an ideology of solidar­ity, one that re­jected as divisive all efforts to distinguish the in­fected from the uninfected. Such distinctions, it was feared, would lead to “viral apartheid.” Solidarity was endangered to the extent that the infected were held to have special du­ties… Cohesiveness could best be grounded in the concepts of universal vulnerability to HIV and the universal importance of safe sexual prac­tices.[36]

For gay activists, the proper of goal of AIDS prevention was defense of the gay sexual revolution, and since gay libera­tion was founded on a “sexual brotherhood of promiscuity … any abandonment of that promiscuity would amount to a communal be­trayal of gargantuan pro­portions.”[37]

AIDS educators were:

…to en­courage condom use rather than attempt to persuade them to abandon anal inter­course … AIDS educators have a responsibility to aim only for the minimum nec­es­sary changes in individuals’ lives which are needed to reduce the risk of getting AIDS.[38]

Any suggestion that the infected might have a duty toward others was greeted with scorn. For example:

To mark the occasion of the city’s [N.Y.] 50,000th AIDS case, efforts were made to launch a prevention campaign that would focus on protecting oth­ers as well as oneself. Those ef­forts were aborted when AIDS specialists inside the health de­partment denounced the pro­posal as “victim blam­ing.”[39]

It was assumed by those outside the gay community that fear of contracting an incurable, debilitating disease would motivate gay men to refrain from risky sexual activ­ity, but the gay community re­acted to the crisis by romanticiz­ing HIV in­fection:

A stranger to gay culture, un­aware of the reality of AIDS, might believe from much of the gay press that HIV infection was a sort of elixir that pro­duced high self-esteem, solved long-standing psychological and substance abuse problems, and enhanced physical appear­ance…creating the subcon­scious impression that infection — the “penalty” of unsafe sex — is really not so bad after all.[40]

HIV-positive status was portrayed in some homosexual publications as more fun. An editorial in Steam, a magazine aimed at gay men, quotes a man who has been positive since the early years of the epidemic:

I’m so sick and tired of these Negatives whining about how difficult it is to stay safe. Why don’t they just get over it and get Positive.[41]

According to Scott O’Hara, Steam’s HIV-positive editor who died of AIDS in 1998:

One of my primary goals is the Maximization of Pleasure, and just as I believe that Gay Men Have More Fun, so too do I believe that Posi­tives have learned to have much more fun than Negatives. I’m delighted to be Positive … The Negative world is defined by fear, ours by pleasure.[42]

Those who died of AIDS were memorialized as martyrs. Rather than calling for changes in the behaviors, which led to these deaths, the AIDS establishment blamed the government, religion, and the straight world for not finding a cure, for not funding education, for its homophobia, for causing homosexuals’ low self-esteem, and for denying their ‘right’ to marry.[43]

Because the thought of using condoms for the rest of their lives was unacceptable to many MSM, in 1992 the AIDS activists came up with the slogan “Be Here for the Cure.”[44] They demanded that government funded scientists immediately find a cure for HIV/AIDS, one which would allow MSM to return to their previous behavior without the risk of dying. This was totally unrealistic, as a physician who treated HIV patients explained, “There are no viral illness we’ve successfully found a cure for yet.”[45] Nevertheless, “the idea that there would surely be a cure, and soon was vital to many gay men’s determination to use condoms or take other safer-sex precautions.”[46]

For some, even the harm reduction compromise of ‘condom code’ was too sex negative. According to Dr. Walt Odets, a gay psychologist and author of In the Shadow of the Epidemic, – writing when the AIDS diagnosis was still a death sentence — argued that if it was a choice between anal sex (and other high risk practices) and life, homosexual men should feel free to choose anal sex and take their chances. Reduction of HIV transmis­sion should “only be the secondary task because it must be built on the foundation of lives experi­enced as worth the trouble.” Odets insisted that the values of the gay community should not be sacrificed so that individuals could live meaningless lives:

Survival must in­clude the idea of meaningful, human survival for a community that has traditionally been scorned or pun­ished for the way it makes love, communi­cates intimacy, and creates human bonds[47]

If biological survival is consid­ered the essential purpose of human life, then motivations to engage in unprotected sex — which assuredly offers the pos­sibility of shortened life — will be understood as pathological. If the possi­bility of other es­sential values and purposes are accepted, values that are not about longevity but about the content or quality of life, then unpro­tected sex might not be considered pathological[48]

The condom code had the effect of making MSM feel guilty about unprotected sex, but the message was rejected because gay men, having just escaped from a shaming culture, were very reluctant to establish another one.[49] Odets felt that those designed the condom code ignore the realities of gay life:

The idea that gay men would readily adapt to condoms, ignore or fail to recognize their limitations, and, according to many educators, have fun with them is rooted in homophobia. Also homophobic is the expectation that gay men ought to feel shame and guilt for not liking them and, often, not using them.[50]

…many positive men are not taking responsibility for protecting negative men from HIV and do not see why they should.[51]

If some gay men feel that the fullest, richest possible life demands behaviors that may also expose them to HIV, who are educators to tell them they are wrong? To attempt to morally shame such individuals who put no others at unwilling risk, or to attempt to coerce them into conformity to allay our own anxieties seems humanly reprehensible.[52]

Odets condemned the social marketing model embodied in the condom code, as “simplistic,” “incompetent,” “responsible for a considerable psychological damage to gay men,” and unacceptable “moralizing.”[53] He criticized AIDS education advo­cates for holding on to the illusion that education had “worked at one time and should work again.” He did not believe that this approach had ever really been successful.[54] In this Odets was correct, a careful study of the epidemic revealed that the dramatic drop in new infections in the late 1980’s was mainly the result of epidemic saturation.[55]

Epidemic saturation occurs when a significant portion of an at-risk population is infected, usually those most vulnerable — in this case promiscuous gay men. Since, as the number of the infected increased, the number of uninfected decreased and since those uninfected at this stage of the epidemic were likely to be less promiscuous, the epidemic has fewer and fewer potential victims. It was burning itself out. However, as soon as more young men entered the gay community, the rate of new infections began to rise and continues to rise.[56]

Researchers found a record in blood samples of the process of epidemic saturation. In preparation for a Hepatitis B vaccine trial, blood samples of MSM were taken from 1978-1988. When a test for HIV was developed, the samples were tested for HIV. The tests showed that by 1985, 73.1% of the original sample was HIV positive. [57]

A study of young HIV negative gay men revealed that prevention campaigns are ineffective:

The data suggests that lack of knowledge about HIV transmission is insufficient in explaining risk-taking. Rather, rationalization processes may be a factor in the sexual risk-taking behaviors of young HIV-negative men, and moreover, deep intrapyschic processes, (often heightened by concurrent substance use), and the desire to please sexual partners may drive the decision-making of these men. [58]

The motivations for high risk behavior include:

…more intense physical pleasure during sex, the need to feel a physical and emotional connection with partners, and eroticization of behavior that is considered taboo.[59]

In the 1990’s the revolt against safe-sex education took the form of open advocacy for “barebacking” — unprotected anal intercourse (UAI). At a round table discussion on barebacking, Michael Scarce, a San Francisco writer and activist, attacked those who were trying to change the gay culture:

I think that it’s very dangerous for AIDS organizations or public health in general to tread that far into moralizing and prescribing particular sets of morals upon any given population, because you’re going to have that segment of that population who feels differently, and who holds different shared values, who will organize in resistance and in rebellion and in retaliation to that, and I do see barebacking, in some small ways, as a manifestation of that. When barebacking folks talk about the condom police and safer-sex Nazis, and even some of the other rhetoric that really even mirrors like feminist pro-choice discourse about sort of get your laws off my bodies, I have a right to make decisions about what happens to me.[60]

If barebacking takes place between two men who are both positive, there is still the risk on contracting another STD or a different variety of HIV. Men who have tested HIV negative and are in a relationship, could engage in the behavior without risk, assuming that both continue to be faithful. Unfortunately, monogamy among gay men is rare. A study done in the Netherlands, concluded that gay men in relationships were actually at higher risk of infection.[61] But the greatest risk involves HIV negative gay men who engage in UAI (barebacking) with partners who are HIV positive or whose status is unknown.[62] There are even reports of men barebacking for the purpose of becoming infected (bugchasing) or infecting others (giftgiving) [63]

Bugchasers are said to be ‘impregnated’ by the masculine and male giftgivers when they are infected. HIV positive giftgivers, following receptive anal intercourse with another HIV positive giftgiver, are said to have been ‘repozzed’

The development of highly aggressive anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) transformed HIV infection from a death sentence to a chronic disease. However, optimism about treatment caused many MSM, to become even more careless about prevention.

A study tracking changes in behavior among MSM in San Francisco found that:

Estimated HIV prevalence increased from 19.6% in 1997 to 26.8% in 2002 … Unprotected anal intercourse with a partner of different or unknown HIV serostatus increased from 9.3% to 14.6%. Mean number of male partners increased from 10.7 to 13.8.[64]

A study published in 2003 found that 42% of HIV positive MSM reported sex without disclosing their infection, predominantly with nonexclusive relationships.[65] It is not therefore surprising that the rate of new infections among young MSM continued to rise.

In 2003 in an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health, entitled “When Plagues don’t End,” recognized the failure of prevention strategies, and called for, among other things, a:

…rigorous assessment and effective translation and dissemination of behavioral approaches that never were adequately developed and implemented in the first place to address the prevention needs of MSM. Perhaps most important somehow we need to immunize prevention science, programs, and policies against stigma, political opportunism and sanctimony.[66]

But nothing really changed. A 2008 article in the prestigious British journal The Lancet was blunt, “US efforts to prevent HIV have failed miserably.”[67]

Gay AIDS activists refuse to admit their strategy has failed and continue to push for more money for education, particularly in schools. There is, however, no evidence that the thousands of MSM, who become HIV positive each year, have not heard of AIDS, do not know how it is spread, and do not know how to prevent infection. What causes HIV to spread is men who know they are at risk and yet do not get tested, if they are tested don’t pick up the results and continue to engage in high risk activity.

A study of 28,530 MSM who attended STD clinics in England revealed the core of the problem.[68] Between 1999 and 2002, MSM who came to the clinics for treatment of other STDs were anonymously tested for HIV. Of these 3,593 (12.9%) were HIV positive. 2,520 of these had been previously diagnosed. This alone should be of concern since infection with another STD is a sign that these HIV positive men or their partners were having sex with other partners. Not only could these encounters spread HIV, but infection with a new STDs could complicate treatment for HIV.

Of the remaining 25,910, 11,655 (45 %) refused voluntary counseling and HIV testing (VCT) even though the fact that they were infected with another STD meant that they were engaging in sex with multiple partners and at high risk for HIV infection. Of those 11,655 who refused VCT, the anonymous testing revealed that 737 were HIV positive. These HIV positive men went back into the community, untreated, and purposefully ignorant of the threat they posed to others.[69]

According to Dr. Philip Alcabes, an epidemiologist at HunterCollege:

…it looks like prevention campaigns make even less difference than anyone thought …HIV incidence did not decline as much from the 1980s to the 1990s as we believed despite the dramatic increase in condom promotion and so-called prevention education.[70]

In 2010 the Obama administration recently announced new strategy designed to cut the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. by 25% over the next five years, but the “new” strategy is simply more of the old failed strategy.[71]

While recognizing the failure of previous educational efforts, rather than turning to proven strategies for containing STDs, experts called for more respect for the voices of gay men:

We must enact an innovative and proactive vision and framework for HIV prevention that moves us beyond the undertakings rooted in social-cognitive paradigms that have informed this work for the past 25 years. A new framework for HIV prevention must give voice to gay men; must consider the totality of their lives; must delineate the underlying logic, which directs their relation to sex and HIV; and must concurrently respect their diverse life experiences.[72]

The voices of gay men, however, continue to insist that all education efforts present a positive image of gay life. Even minor challenges to the gay activists’ prevention strategy continue to meet resistance. In order to combat the growing perception that advances in drug therapy have made HIV infections ‘no big deal,’ an ad campaign was rolled out in 2011. The commercial showed a “melancholy-looking men standing against a shadowy black-and-white backdrop of menacing New York City streets. “When you get HIV,” the narrator intones, “it’s never just HIV.” The ad focused on the other diseases that those on drug therapy may suffer from. But this emphasis on disease was not acceptable to AIDS activists. They demanded the ad be pulled. Marjorie Hill of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis complained:

We know from our longstanding H.I.V. prevention work that portraying gay and bisexual men as dispensing diseases is counter productive.[73]

A letter from a coalition of activist groups to the Mayor suggested that rather than using scare tactics communication strategies to gay men insisted that:

… acknowledging their resilience in the face of this epidemic, will be far more successful than perpetuating outdates images of sickness, dying, and death.[74]

The images of “sickness dying, and death” may be old, but they are not outdated. Each year over 6,000 MSM die of AIDS.[75]

The on-going syndemic is proof that the “condom code” with its rejection of proven public health strategies for preventing infection with STDs is a colossal failure, but the consequences of this failure extend beyond the community of MSM. Gay AIDS activists insisted that the “condom code” applied to universally. They sold their failed strategy to the world, and nowhere have the consequences been more devastating than in Sub-Sahara Africa, where millions were wasted on condom education and distribution.[76] It was only when countries like Uganda and Zimbabwe instituted programs which involved abstinence and sexual fidelity did the rate of new infections decline.[77]

Other STDS

HIV is not the only problem confronting MSM. Wave after wave of other STDs are still sweeping through the gay community. In 2008 there was a report of the emergence of Multidrug-Resistant, Community Associated, Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Clone USA300 (MRSA) commonly known as the flesh eating bacteria among MSM.”[78]

In 2004, there was an outbreak of lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) in a previously rare sexually transmitted disease among MSM engaging in “leather parties.” in the Netherlands.[79] Outbreaks of LGV were reported in England and the U.S.[80]

Given the proliferation of sexual networks and international travel, new diseases and mutated forms of old diseases present a constant challenge to the medical profession. For example, a new variant of Chlamydia trachomatis was recently discovered in Sweden, one that was not picked up by standard testing.[81]

HIV positive gay men on retroviral therapy continued to have unprotected sex and spread other sexually transmitted diseases. Hepatitis C which can lead to liver cancer can be sexually transmitted and is spreading not only among HIV positive gay men, but also among HIV negative MSM.[82]

Human papilloma virus is epidemic and has lead to a dramatic increase in anal cancer among MSM, especially those who are HIV positive.[83]

The behavior of gay men in the midst of a syndemic has led to a situation in which men already diagnosed with HIV and on therapy continue to engage in unprotected sex and to contract and spread a wide variety of STDs. Their suppressed immune system, the amount of medication they already take needed to control the virus and deal with the numerous opportunistic infections, plus the multiple infections with other STDs creates a perfect breeding ground for drug resistant strains of previously easily treatable infectious diseases. These diseases then spread to HIV negative MSM and can spread through bisexual men to the general public.

Venues

A number of venues allowed MSM to acquire the large number of sexual partners reported in AIDS studies. Gay bars, gay bookstores, and theaters that showed gay porno films have traditionally provided places where MSM could engage in various forms of sexual activity. What is known as the Tearoom Trade[84] takes place in public bathrooms, where men interested in quick anonymous sexual encounters can find willing partners.

There were, however other options. Larry Kramer in his 1979 novel Faggots described in detail the unbridled sexual activity on Fire Island, a summer resort near New York City. The gay community was outraged that their private — and shocking — behavior was exposed to the public.

In the 1970s the rise of well-appointed gay bathhouses offered private rooms and other spaces where anal intercourse (AI) could be engaged in with numerous partners during a single visit. The result was that diseases contracted mainly by AI spread quickly through the gay community. Even those who did not frequent a bathhouse were at risk of encountering a partner who had been infected in one.

The experts who tracked the early HIV/AIDS epidemic immediately recognized the part that bathhouses played in spreading the disease and sought to have them closed. The gay community resisted. As the death toll climbed in the late 1980’s the clients stopped coming and the bathhouses shut their doors. Recently, however, some have reopened.

The closure of the bathhouses did not stop gay men from seeking multiple, anonymous partners. The 1990 saw the rise of the “Circuit.” Originally organized to raise funds for AIDS and other causes:

Circuit parties are typically lavish affairs with elaborate lighting, music, and decor and are held in venues that can accommodate large crowds. Some of the larger circuit parties are the White Party in Palm Springs, the Black and Blue Party in Montreal, and the Winter Party in Miami, each of which attracts attendees in the thousands to tens of thousands.[85]

For example, during 1997, an estimated 100,000 homosexual men attended at least one of the more than 50 circuit parties, According to an article on HIV and circuit parties:

…circuit parties may lead to unsafe sex through beliefs about the need for authentic social connection at parties and also through beliefs that authenticity is linked to having sex without condoms, especially given persistent stigmas surrounding condom use.[86]

Circuit parties are venues for drug abuse and unsafe sex, which is particularly ironic since many of these events are fund raisers for AIDS research, care, and education. In spite of the risks, gay activists defended the activity:

Circuit parties are community-building and profit-generating events, and short of legally closing them, they are not likely to go away. … Circuit parties are an important venue on multiple levels for one subpopulation of the gay community, and it is unfortunate and ironic that building up this community via parties should increase the likelihood of HIV transmittable sexual practices.”[87]

Men looking for partners could also reach them through telephone and Internet chat rooms. In the 21st century the most popular resource for meeting willing partners is Manhunt.net. Billed as “The world’s fastest —growing gay website,” it is “quietly abetting a revolution in social and sexual mores, under the slogan “get on, get off.” [88] Michael J. Gross, in an article entitled “Has Manhunt Destroyed Gay culture: A cost-benefit analysis of our quest to get laid,” published in Out, a magazine for gay men, expressed his concerns.

When we started crusing online, neither I nor any of many friends would have dreamed we’d post naked pictures of ourselves for strangers to see. Now almost all of us have done it … But it got us laid … When we questioned our choices, we reminded ourselves, We’re gay, this is our culture, Manhunt is the 21st-century gay bar.[89]

… settling for Mr. Right Now becomes a failure of hope. When you came out, you did it because you wanted something. Part of what you wanted was sex, but part of what you hoped for the possibility of being loved as your true self. And when, as often happens while cruising online, we diminish the hopes that drew us out of the closet, we reduce sex to a purely physical act.

Gay urban life has always been a meat market, and cruising, you could argue, has always been a form of consumption. For gay men seeking sex, as for all kinds of shoppers, the Internet removed constraints of space and time on access to the market — and at the same time offered an unprecedented range of products to choose from. Basile says that, from the start, he wanted Manhunt to be “like eBay for men,” where users could find anything they wanted.[90]

Gross found Manhunt is unapologetic:

Manhunt’s employees can brag about the site’s addictive quality because they’re not doing anything illegal and because they can count on no one making a moral argument against their business, because no gay man wants to risk sounding anti-sex.[91]

Other gay men have also expressed concern. Simon Fanshawe, British writer and broadcaster created the documentary “The Trouble With Gay Men.” He explained the problem:

When I was a student in the 1970s, what we were fighting for was visibility. … But the fight just to be seen and heard ended up with us defending all of our behaviour. Because the lid had been on the pressure cooker for so long, and we were defined by sex, then in order to be truly, madly, deeply gay, we had to celebrate everything homosexual. We made no judgments about our behaviour, our morality or the morals of the culture in which we swam and into which we introduced successive generations of gay men.

Some, for instance, claimed the “right” to cruise for sex. How ridiculous. We may well enjoy it, but it’s not a right. The rights and wrongs are about not being arrested for it, not being killed for it. But in public spaces the issue is not whether it’s gay or straight cruising, it’s about whether you offend other people. Anyone, hetero or homo, runs the risk of upsetting others if they shag in public. Now we’re grown-ups we have a responsibility to make those kind of judgments. But we don’t. It’s still almost impossible, for instance, to wonder out loud whether it really is acceptable to walk down the main street of Brighton dressed only in a thong, just because it’s gay “pride”. It’s fun, it’s a lark, but is it antisocial? Well, we still don’t stop to ask. Just shut up! It’s gay, honey …

And when it comes to sex, whether it’s paying for it, or being beaten, or weed on, or doing it in groups, or doing it in saunas, we make no judgments about the effects on our health, emotional or mental, or the effects on our ability to make moral judgments in the world. If you question the depths and extremes of some kinds of sexual behaviour, you run the risk of being told, as I was by the owner of the sauna I interviewed in the programme, that you’re not really gay: “a straight man in a gay man’s body”, were his exact words.[92]

Drugs

The sexual excesses of the gay community including the weekend long parties of the circuit are only possible through the use of various drugs. [93] Besides the more traditional substances –alcohol, marijuana and cocaine —gay men used a number of substances which are taken singly or in combination to enhance the circuit party, club, or sexual experience. These include

  • Ecstasy
  • Crystal Meth
  • Special K
  • Poppers
  • GHB
  • Viagra

Ecstasy or MDMA acts as a stimulant and a hallucinogen, gives users a sense of well-being and sensory distortion. It has been shown to cause significant impairment in cognitive functioning, including visual and verbal memory, reasoning and the ability to sustain attention.

Michelangelo Signorile, a gay activist and author of Life Outside, has expressed concerned about drug use among gay men, however when researching his book at a circuit party he discovered that because he was sober the “party was boring and monotonous.” And so he took ‘a hit of Ecstasy” and “soon enough, the night whirls into frenzied and fuzzy collage of colored lights and bodies as the feeling of well being takes over.”[94]

However, the feelings are short lived. When the drug wears off:

“there’s an intense feeling of isolation and loneliness that is only heightened by the superficiality of the events. The only way to feel connected once again is to take more drugs. Indeed for many men who can’t possibly connect without them, the drugs provide yet another way to experience virtual intimacy and virtual love

Signorile supposed that Ecstasy was less harmful than cocaine which was habit forming, but later learned it can cause serious and permanent brain damage.

Crystal Meth, a form of the powerful stimulant metham­phetamine, which is used to intensify the sexual experience. Crystal meth appears to be the new drug of choice because it is cheap and can keep a user high for 48 to 72 hours at a time. Patrick Moore author of Tweaking: A Crystal Myth Memoir, warns:

…most gay men do not know that crystal use can cause sores and abrasions in their mouths, transforming a generally low-risk behavior like oral sex into a high-risk behavior.[95]

For gay MSM, addiction to crystal meth is difficult to overcome because:

… methamphetamine usage and sex have become fused; these men believe they will be unable to achieve a satisfying sexual life if they abstain from methamphetamine.[96]

A book — Crystal Meth and Men who have Sex with Men: What mental health care professionals need to know–published simultaneously published as two issues of the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, lays out in graphic detail the risks both physical and psychological of crystal meth, particularly on men who are HIV positive.

MA [Crystal Meth] has serious acute cardiovascular effects that may interact with HIV medications to cause increased toxicity or death. Neurological complications resulting from dopamine depletion can result in irreversible neuropsychiatric symptoms, including memory los, and may be synergistic with HIV 0related dementia symptoms. Psychiatric morbidity in MA abusers with HIV infection includes acute psychotic reactions and long-term depression. MA abuse represents a new medical challenge in HIV treatment.[97]

Ketamine or Special K, an animal tranquil­izer, which can disrupt attentional function explicit memory and verbal fluency. Schizophrenia-like and dissociative symptoms can also result as well as problems with working memory. It facilitates AI.

Poppers is a slang term for nitrites (amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, isopropyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite) inhaled in order to enhance sexual pleasure, particularly AI.

GHB (gamma hydroxyl buyrate) a nervous system depressant, which relaxes and sedates the body. When used with alcohol it can result in respiratory depression. A sedative with unpredictable side effects that causes some revel­ers at circuit parties to require medical attention.

Viagra or other drugs prescribed for erectile dysfunction, are used to facilitate multiple sexual encounters.

Trail Mix is the slang for a mixture of various drugs, often crushed together.

Multidrug use has been positively linked to infection with STDs.[98] Drugs lead to disinhibition and feelings of invincibility and unsafe sex. They also undermine the body’s defense system. Bruce Kellerhouse speaking at a public forum “Challenging the Culture of Disease: The Crystal Meth-HIV Connection,” explained the problem:

…crystal meth use is one of many shards that form this mosaic that might explain why more men are becoming infected with HIV. Other pieces include the perception that HIV is a manageable disease and that it is no big deal to live with it. Or the widespread use of the Internet as a private means of finding sex partners and the unexamined practice of bareback sex to avoid plastic sex, either on crystal or off.[99]

The forum was a gathering of professionals and gay men trying to confront the problem of crystal meth in the gay community.[100] Physicians expressed concern about the culture of circuit parties and how the use of party drugs can lead to overdoses, dehydration, unsafe sex, and STD infections. Crystal Meth has qualities that are appealing to gay men, “including a potent sense of connection, increases in general energy level, libido surge and sexual energy that last for hours.”[101] According to one physician, 75% of his gay male patients have experimented with illegal substances.[102] Warning gay men about the dangers of multi-drug use may be ineffective. Odets argues that gay men are not having unprotected sex because they are using mind altering drugs, but using drugs in order to have sex.

Our current [safe sex] education’s homophobia, moralism, directiveness, erotophobia and penchant for erring on the safe side are important contributions to many men’s need to use substances to engage in sex of any sort.[103]

The gay communities defense of promiscuity as central to their identity leads to defense of venues that make the acquisition of multiple, anonymous parties possible, which in turn leads to a need for drugs to sustain their sexual availability, and overcome concerns about the risks, all of which leads to exposure to STDs including HIV and puts in jeopardy those already HIV positive.

Steroids and the Cult of Masculinity.

Steroids and sharing of needles used for steroid injection also pose a threat to the health of gay men. The majority of gay men (although by no means all) evidenced symptoms of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) as children. They were often teased by others as being “effeminate.” Gay advocates not only acknowledge this, but argue that since GID is the most common path to SSA in adolescence and a gay identity, and since, according to them SSA is a normal and healthy variety of sexuality, then GID in boys should not be considered a disorder but a normal stage in the development of gay men. Children with GID, according to this view, should be supported and their gender behavior encouraged and protected.[104] In addition, some gay men as boys did not have obvious symptoms of GID, but suffered from chronic feelings of unmasculinity. They didn’t identify with girls, but felt excluded from the world of boys. They had a phobic fear of rough and tumble play and an aversion to contact sports.[105]

Since many gay men grew up without a close relationship with their father or male peers, they long for the acceptance they did not achieve as children. Gay men are attracted to men and the more masculine a man is the more attractive he is to other gay men. Therefore, in order to attract other gay men, a gay man must be as masculine as possible. In order to achieve the perfect body, gay men are more likely to work out to build up their bodies and to take steroids. Typical of those caught up in the cult of masculinity is Mark who takes steroids to attract ‘muscle gods’:

“It’s not like you really want to hang out with them — you just don’t like them excluding you. It pushes all those buttons from when you’re a kid. At least for me it does. And that was one of the biggest reasons why I started doing steroids.” [106]

Another steroids user explained his reasons:

“To suddenly have everyone wanting you in bed and including you in everything, in parties and social gatherings, after years of being the shy awkward type who wasn’t looked at — that is a major ego boost.”[107]

Continued steroid use has side effects, both physical and psychological. Excessive doses of steroids can damage the liver and kidneys and lead to breast and prostate cancer. Stopping steroid use can cause the enlarged muscles to shrink. Steroids cause irrational aggression, mood swings, hypomania and depression.[108]

Childhood Sexual abuse

Gay men are more likely to have been victims of childhood sexual abuse. Stall and associates note that a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has been linked to increase risk of HIV infection.

…mounting research evidence suggests that men with a history of unwanted sexual activity during childhood are more likely than those without such a history to engage in sexual practices that place them at risk for contracting HIV.

This was confirmed by other studies, including one by Zieler and associates which found that men reporting childhood sexual abuse were 8 times more likely to be involved in prostitution, 2.4 times to have multiple partners, and 1.2 time fore likely to have anonymous partners.[109] Such behavior would increase the risk of contracting HIV

A study by Bartholow and associates found that gay men, who had been victims of forced sexual contact as children were more likely to engage in unprotected sex, exchange sex for money or drugs and be HIV or syphilis positive.[110]

A study by Brennan and associates found that

Childhood sexual abuse was reported by 15.5% of the survey respondents … Those who reported experiencing abuse regularly were more likely to (1) be HIV positive, (2) have exchanged sex for payment, and (3) be a current user of sex-related drugs.[111]

Trauma and Adverse Events

New research has found that people who experience trauma or disruption in their childhoods were more likely to have engaged in homosexual behavior or self-identify as gay. A New Zealand study found that:

People brought up with a step-parent or two non-biological parents were less likely to be exclusively heterosexual.. Adverse events in childhood, particularly sexual assault and rape, were associated with increased likelihood of belong to all of the non-exclusively heterosexual groups. [112]

A study by Jorm and associates found more childhood adversity among those with same-sex partners than those without.[113] Still another study found that:

Lesbians and gay men, bisexuals, and heterosexualswho reported any same-sex sexual partners over their lifetimehad greater risk of childhood maltreatment, interpersonal violence,trauma to a close friend or relative, and unexpected death ofsomeone close than did heterosexuals with no same-sex attractionsor partners.[114]

Sexual coercion and outright rape is not uncommon among MSM. One study of MSM found that:

29% of the participants …reported being coerced into unwanted sexual contact and 92% of the time the coercion involved unprotected anal intercourse.[115]

Another study found that 12% of gay men reported being victims of forced sex by their current or most recent partners, while 5.9% reported being perpetrators of forced sex.[116]

A study of university students found that “sexual victimization experienced by gay/bisexual students is greater than experienced by heterosexual students.”[117]

In another study of 2881 MSM, 34% reported psychological battering, 22% physical battering, and 5% sexual battering. This rate is higher than for heterosexual men and women.[118]

The book Men who beat the Men who Love Them: Battered Gay Men and Domestic Violence, documents in detail the problem of domestic violence among gay men.[119]

Relationships

STDs, including HIV, could not have spread so widely without frequent partner change. If a person who is completely monogamous becomes infected with an STD by non-sexual means (such as a blood transfusion), the disease does not spread beyond that person’s partner or children conceived after the infection. Many experts believe that HIV was around for years, perhaps decades, but because those infected had a very limited number of sexual partners, there was no epidemic. It was only when it invaded a population where multiple, concurrent sexual partners were the norm, did it spread rapidly.

If, on observing the obvious consequences of HIV infection and watching scores of friends sicken and die, gay men had decided to enter into monogamous relationships, or even practice serial monogamy, the epidemic would have been brought under control, but this did not happen

In the late 1980’s, epidemic saturation had set in, the most promiscuous were sick or dying. The virus was running out of people to infect. However, by the 1990’s a new generation of young men were coming out and engaging in behavior in the urban gay ghettos that put them at risk for HIV infection. The results were predictable. HIV infection among MSM, in particular, young MSM continues to rise. Today, gay men continued to engage in unprotected sex at rates high enough to sustain the epidemic indefinitely. [120] Epidemiologist Morris and Dean predicted that HIV would become endemic with a seroprevalence of 65% among the oldest group and 35% among the youngest.[121] Another group of epidemiologists predicted that:

The overall probability of seroconversion prior to age 55 years is about 50%, with seroconversion still continuing at and after age 55. Given that this cohort consists of volunteers receiving extensive anti-HIV transmission education, the future seroconversion rates of the general homosexual population may be even higher.[122]

Although the push for “gay marriage” might lead the general public to believe that gay men want their monogamous faithful relationships recognized by law, in fact fidelity for same-sex couples is not defined by sexual monogamy, but honesty about outside sexual relationships.[123] A recent article in New York Times confirmed what has long been known, namely that many same-sex relationships whether formalized by marriage ceremonies, civil partnerships, or commitment ceremonies are “open.”[124] According to the Gay Couples Study conducted at San Francisco which followed 556 male couples for three years 50% had sex outside their relationship, with the knowledge and approval of their partners. As time passed the number of faithful couples declined. A study of 156 male couples found that after 5 years all of the couples “had incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity in their relationship.[125]

Those who wish to understand the scope of this openness should read a recently published report Beyond Monogamy: Lessons from Long-Term Male Couples in Non-Monogamous Relationships,[126] the couples interviewed candidly admitted not just occasional affairs, but a consistent pattern of sex outside the relationship, some anonymous in clubs, some with acquaintances, and some threesomes. The couples generally had rules about what was acceptable, but these appeared to be fairly flexible. One of the participants explained, “I’m gay; you’re gay; you’ll play; I’ll play. Let’s be realistic and open about it.”[127] They frequently discussed their outside adventures in detail. It should be noted that almost half of the participants in the study were HIV positive.[128]

MSM have in general more sexual partners than men attracted to women. Odets links the pursuit of sex to adolescent experiences:

As adolescents caught in confusing webs of sexual drive, hopelessness and societal prohibition, many men found sex itself the only completely convincing, natural, and conflict-free aspect of being gay.[129]

We are defined by our sex drive — and our political goals amount, essentially to ensuring that we are in no way penalized for it. In our personal lives … coming out requires a painful exertion of energy to rout the puritan fear that gay sex is bad. To vanquish this fear, especially when first coming out, many of us become preoccupied with the pursuit of sex.[130]

The Gay Prophets

In 1979 Larry Kramer’s brutally frank novel and prophetic novel, Faggots, about the sex lives of gay men on Fire Island — a summer resort outside New York City — was published. He was roundly castigated, not because what he said was untrue, but for exposing the dark side of his own community.

In 1981 when gay men started dying from strange diseases, Kramer organized gay men and demanded action. He was able to draw attention to the need for funding and medication to treat the symptoms, but his pleas for changes in behavior were rejected.[131]

In 2004 Kramer gave a speech at Cooper Union which has been published under the title The Tragedy of Today’s Gays in which he railed against all those he blamed for not acting effectively enough to stop the AIDS epidemic. But under the rage, there was guilt, because Kramer remembered those whom he might have infected:

The sweet young boy who didn’t know anything and was in awe of me. I was the first man who f—-d him. I think I murdered him. The old boyfriend who did not want to go to bed with me and I made him. The man I let f— me because I was trying to make my then boyfriend, now lover, jealous … Has it never, ever occurred to you that not using a condom is tantamount to murder? I cannot believe you have never considered this. It is such a simple and intelligent thought to have. And we all should have had it from Day One. Why didn’t we? That has been haunting me for a long time, that question. Why didn’t we? It is incredibly selfish not to have at least thought that question …[132]

Other gay men sounded warnings. Randy Shilts covered the epidemic as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. In his book As the Band Played On, he revealed how the gay community fought sensible public health initiatives. Gabrielle Rotello, in Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, wondered about the future:

Each new homosexual generation is replenished by heterosexuals, whose production of gay sons is entirely unrelated to the dynamics of the epidemic. AIDS can therefore keep mowing down gay men, and rather than dying out, phalanx after phalanx will emerge from the trenches, ready to be mowed down anew … There won’t be a small number of people who survived whether through genetic mutation or behavioral and cultural adaptation, and who then produce healthy and immune future generation, the epidemic could literally go on forever,[133]

Michelangelo Signorile, author of Life Outside: The Signorile Report on Gay Men: Sex, drugs, muscles, and the passages of life, worried that “a legacy of narcissistic attention to physical ideals, excessive drug use, and unsafe sex continue to bring on new waves of anxiety, emotional insecurity, and HIV transmission.”[134]

The prophets’ warnings were ignored. The gay community continued its reckless behavior. The media focus shifted to the marriage debate and public has been led to believe that the epidemic is, if not over, then under control.

Education Fails

Report after report reveals that educational interventions have failed to achieve significant results. A study reported in the British Medical Journal compared gay men who received “behavioral intervention to reduce sexually transmitted infections” with a control group who didn’t receive any special education. The researchers found that “the intervention was more likely to be harmful.” There was a “higher risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection among the participants in the intervention …” This was “unexpected … And clearly a cause for concern.” The authors theorized that “the intervention engendered in the participants a misplaced sense of confidence in their ability to negotiate high risk sexual situation.” [135]

These interventions can be compared to interventions that tried to teach alcoholics to drink responsibly. After the first drink and the alcoholism kicks in and the education is forgotten. Gay men do not contract STDs because they are uneducated about the risks or the ways to prevent infection, but because they were driven by disordered psychological needs:

Jeremy “…There’s nothing that can make me feel better if I’m feeling down than getting laid … Nothing at all. But I should stress that it is not the actual sex that does it as much as feeling completely and utterly validated by someone.”[136]

Alex “…I wasn‘t horny and that‘s not why I ended up in the sex club. I ended up there because I needed attention, validation, and remember, I had been spiraling downward all night. I need to be worshipped because I felt I was being ignored. And if someone would worship my body, I’d realize and I’m not unattractive …“[137]

Part of the problem is that gay men become quickly bored.

“When one is young and inexperienced, the tamest, most vanilla-flavored gay sex — mere cuddling and mutual masturbation — is more than enough to do the trick: it’s new, forbidden, ‘dirty,’ and exciting. As one gains experience, vanilla sex with one partner becomes familiar, tame, and boring, and loses its capacity to arouse. At first, the increasingly jaded gay man seeks novelty in partners, rather than practices, and becomes massively promiscuous; eventually, all bodies become boring, and only new practices will thrill. Two major avenues diverge in this yellow wood, two nerves upon which to press; that of raunch, and that of aggression.” [138]

Raunch involves practices that involve exposure to feces, urine, and filth. Aggression involves rough sex or sado-masochism. Risk is one way to increase the excitement and overcome boredom.

The Syndemic

The existence of a syndemic of STDs and HIV/AIDS is undeniable. Gay men are 44 to 86 times more likely to become HIV positive than other men. MSM are also more likely to become infected with other STDs, including those resistant to standard treatment, making then more susceptible to HIV or complicating the treatment of HIV. Exposure to these STDs, plus other lifestyle choices, make them more likely to have cancer, including anal cancer, throat and mouth cancer, lung cancer, and liver cancer.[139] Since a higher percentage of MSM are HIV positive, there is a real possibility that a male sex partner of a man who has sex partner will be HIV positive.

Gay men are more likely than other men to have problems with substance use and abuse, including alcohol, marijuana, crystal meth, ecstasy, special K, poppers, GBH and Viagra and to use substances during or in order to facilitate sex — in particularly UAI with multiple partners.

Gay men are more likely to frequent venues where HIV positive men socialize and where unsafe sex and drug use with multiple partners are facilitated.

Gay men are more likely to suffer from a wide range of psychological disorders, including depression and suicidal ideation.

Gay men are more likely to have been victims of childhood sexual abuse, other abuse, and life trauma and this in turn makes them more vulnerable to psychological disorders, and to substance abuse, which in turn leads to high risk sexual behavior.

Gay men are more likely to have had GID as children and use steroids to create the perfect body that is attractive to other men.

Gay men belong to communities which see unbridled sexual activity as the very definition of who they are. They reject proven public health strategies for controlling the spread of STDs. They reject as moralizing attempts to encourage them to practice monogamy or use a condom every time or close those venues which encourage sexual relations with multiple partners and drug use. They rejects routine testing, partner notification, and contact tracing. They have fought a ban on blood donations by MSM. Fear of stigmatizing the infected has impeded prevention.[140]

The cost of the syndemic is massive both in lives and money. 6,000 MSM will die this year and every year for the foreseeable future. Drug therapy can prolong the life of those infected for an average of 24 extra years at an estimated total cost of $618,900.[141] Given that 500,000 MSM are currently HIV positive, the cost of care will be massive.

No one in the government or media is willing to admit the obvious: the strategies designed and supported by gay AIDS activists to prevent new infections have failed, yet they are allowed to continue to sabotage standard public health measures.

It is long passed time that HIV prevention is taken out of the hands of gay AIDS activists and given to public health professionals instructed to use all means available to them to prevent the infected from infecting others.

Conclusion

The syndemic goes on unchecked because prevention efforts are controlled by gay AIDS activists and those who defer to them. Currently, it is estimated that in the U.S. 500,000 MSM are HIV positive. Drug therapy can prolong the life of those infected for an average of 24 extra years at an estimated total cost of $618,900 per person.[142]

The gay community sees the devastation: the dead, the dying, the chronically ill. They demand a vaccine, a cure, more money, more education. They claim victim status, and in a sense they are victims. The government and media, by desiring to be thought compassionate, allow gay AIDS activists to exempt MSM from reasonable, proven public health strategies.




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Binh An Diep et al. “Emergence of Multidrug-Resistant, Community-Associated, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Clone USA300 in men who have sex with men,” Annals of Internal Medicine (2008), 148 (4): p. 249

Enrique Rivero, “Study predicts HIV drug resistance will surge,” UCLANews.com (Jan. 22, 2010). http://newsroomucla.edu/oportal/ucla/study-predicts-hiv-drug-resistance-152122.aspx.

Marc Santora, Lawrence Altman, “Rage and aggressive HIV reported in New York,” New York Times (Feb 12, 2005).

Robert Smith et al., “Evolutionary dynamics of complex networds of HIV drug-resistant strains: The case of San Francisco; http://www.natap.org/2010/newsUpdates/science.pdf

Thomas Maugh, “Transmission of drug resistant HIV reported “Los Angles Times (July 1, 1998).

[11] Douglas Fleming, Judith Wasserheit, “From epidemiological synergy to public health policy and practice: the contribution of other sexually transmitted diseases to sexual transmission of HIV infection” Sexually Transmitted Infections, (1999) 75: pp. 3-17.

[12] Chandler Burr, “The AIDS Exception: Privacy vs. Public Health,” The Atlantic Monthly, June 1997.

[13] Randy Shilts,, And the Band Played On: Politics, people, and the AIDS epidemic, (NY: St. Martins Press, 1987) p.18.

[14] Shilts, p. 39.

[15] W Darrow et al., “The Gay Report on Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” American Journal of Public Health, (1981) 71 (9): pp. 1004-1011.

[16] Shilts, p. 39.

[17] H. Handsfield, “Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Homosexual Men,” American Journal of Public Health. (1981) 71 (9): pp. 989-990.

[18] Shilts, p.18.

[19] Shilts, p. 19.

[20] Shilts, p. 40.

[21] Shilts, p.132.

[22] A Rompalo, ”Sexually Transmitted Causes of Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Homosexual Men,” Medi­cal Clinics of North America, (1990) 74 (6): pp. 1633-1645.

[23] The disease at that time was labeled GRID gay related immune deficiency.

[24] Shilts

[25] Chandler Burr, “The AIDS exception: Privacy vs. Public Health,” The Atlantic Monthly, (June 1997) p. 37.

[26] Bayer quoted in Burr, p. 59.

[27] Research and Decisions Corporation, Designing an Effective AIDS Prevention Campaign Strategy for San Francisco: Results from the Third Probability Sample of an Urban Gay Male Community (San Francisco: San Francisco AIDS Foundation, 1986).

[28] Karolyn Siegel, et al., “Patterns of Change in Sexual Behavior Among Gay Men in New York City,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, (1988) 17(6): pp. 481-497.

[29] D. Feldman, “AIDS health promotion and clinically applied anthropology,” in The Social Dimensions of AIDS: Methods and Theory, (NY: Praeger, 1986).

[30] C. Jones, et al., “Persistence in high risk sexual activity among homosexual in an area of low incidence of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome,” Sexually Transmitted Diseases, (1987) 14: 79-82.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] E. Nieves, “San Francisco again debates bathhouses,” New York Times, (May 29, 1999).

[36] Ibid.

[37] Gabriel Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, (NY: Dutton, 1997) p. 109.

[38] Rotello, p. 109.

[39] Ronald Bayer, “AIDS Prevention–Sexual Ethics and Responsibility,” New England Journal of Medicine, (June 6, 1996): 1540-1542.

[40] Rotello, p. 241

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Larry Kramer, The Tragedy of Today’s Gays (New York: Tarcher, 2005)

[44] Patrick Califia, Speaking Sex to Power: The Politics of Queer Sex (San Franciso, Cleis, 2002).p. 287.

[45] Ibid, p. 291

[46] Ibid, p. 289

[47] Walt Odets, “AIDS Education” (1994).

[48] Walt Odets, In the Shadow of the Epidemic: Being HIV negative in the age of AIDS, (Durham, NC: Duke U.P. 1995), p.205

[49] The Advocate, (Dec.22, 1998) p. 45

[50] Odets, (1994)

[51] Odets, (1994) p. 9

[52] Odets, (1994) p. 10

[53] Odets, (1995) p. 205.

[54] Odets (1994).

[55] Gabriel Rotello, Sexual Ecology, (NY: Dutton,1997)

[56] M Morris, L. Dean, “Effect of sexual behavior change on long-term human immunodeficiency virus prevalence among homosexual men,” American Journal of Epidemiology, (1994) 140(3): pp. 217-32.

Donald Hoover, et al., “Estimating the 1978-1990 and future spread of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 subgroups of homosexual men,” American Journal of Epidemiology, (1991) 134 (10): pp. 1190-1205.

[57] Nancy Hessol et al., “Prevalence, incidence and progression of human immunodeficiency virus infection in homosexual and bisexual men in Hepatitis B Vaccine Trials, 1978-1988,” American Journal of Epidemiology, (1989). 1130 (6): 1167-1175.

[58] Perry Halkitis, et al., “Facilitators of barebacking among emergent adult gay and bisexual men: implications for HIV prevention” Journal of LGBT Res. (2008) 4 (1): pp. 11-26 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2748929/

[59] Ibid, also

L. Wilton et al., “An exploratory study of barebacking, club drug use, and meanings of sex in Black and Latino gay and bisexual men in the age of AIDS,” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, (2005) 9(34): pp. 49-72.

R.J. Wolitski “The emergence of barebacking among gay and bisexual men in the United States: A public health perspective,” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy (2005) 9 (34): pp. 9-34.

A. Carballo-Dieguez. J. Bauermeister, “Barebacking: Intentional condomless anal sex in HIV-risk contexts. Reasons for and against it,” Journal of Homosexuality (2004) 47 (1): pp. 1-16.

[60] Michael Scarce, speaking at a HIV InSite round table on bareback sex organized by Nicolas Sheon, HIV InSite Prevention editor, “Bareback Sex: Implications for the Future of HIV Prevention,” May 1999.

[61] Maria Xirdou, et al., “The contribution of steady and casual partnerships to the incidence of HIV infection among homosexual men in Amsterdam,” AIDS (2003) 17 (7): pp. 1029-1038.

[62] Richard Wolitski, “The emergence of barebacking among gay and bisexual men in the United States: A public health perspective,” in Perry Halkitis, Leo Wilton, Jack Drescher, eds., Barebacking: Psychosocial and Public Health Approaches, (Binghamton NY: Haworth Medical Press, 2005), co-published as Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, 9 (3/4)

[63] Ellie Reynolds, “Material World: Becoming HIV: disease as agency,” University College London, http://blogs.nyu.edu/projects/materialworld/2007/02/becoming_hiv_disease_as_agency.html

[64] D. H. Osmond et al, “Changes in prevalence of HIV infection and sexual risk behavior in men who have sex with men in San Francisco, 1997-2002,”

[65] Daniel Ciccarone, et al., “Sex without disclosure of positive HIV serostatus in a US probability sample of persons receiving medical care for HIV infection,” American Journal of Public Health, (2003) 93, (6): p. 949.

[66] Michael Gross, “When plagues don’t end,” American Journal of Public Health, (2003) 93(6): p. 862

[67] “What is the incidence of HIV in USA? The Lancet, (June 21, 2008) 371 (9630).

[68] A.E. Brown, et al, “Implications for HIV testing policy derived from combining data on voluntary confidential testing with viral sequences of and serological analyses, “ Sexually Transmitted Infections, (2009) 85; p. 4-9. http://sti.bjm.com/content/85/1.4.full.

[69] This includes the 4% of MSM who are also intravenous drug users.

[70] Lawrence Altman, “HIV Study finds rate 40% higher than estimated,” New York Times. www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/health/03aids.html.

[71] National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States, (July 2010) http://www.whitehouse.gov/site/default/files/uploads/NHAS.pdf.

[72] Perry Halkitis, “Reframing HIV prevention for gay men in the United States,” American Psychologist, (2010) 65(8).

[73] Anemona Hartocollis, “NYC’s graphic ad on the dangers of H.I.V. is dividing activists,” (NYT, Jan 6, 2011). http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/nyregion/04hiv.html?partner.

[74] Ibid.

[75] CDC, “HIV among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM),” (Sept. 2010)

[76] Edward Green, Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries, (Westpport CT: Praeger, 2003)

[77] Daniel Halperin, et al., “A surprising prevention success: Why did the HIV epidemic decline in Zimbabwe?” PLoS Medicine¸(2011) 8 (2). http://www.plosmedicine.org.

[78] Binh An Diep et al. “Emergence of Multidrug-Resistant, Community Associated, Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Clone USA300 in men who have sex with men,” Annals of Internal Medicine, (2008) 148, (4): pp. 249-257.

[79] R.F Nieuwenhuis et al., “Resurgence of lymphogranuloma venereum in Western Europe: an outbreak of Chlamydia trachomatis serovar 12 proctitis in The Netherlands among men who have sex with men,” Clinical Infectious Diseases, 39 (2004): 996-1003.

[80] Edwin Bernard, “LGV spreading throughout the UK, gay HIV positive men most affected,” AIDS Map News, (Jan.19, 2002). http:/aidsmap.com/en/news/ED5660D3-7737-4AAEA7DA-22690AB16CSF.asp

[81] Edwin Bernard, “New Swedish Chlamydia strain possible emerging threat to public health,” AIDS Map News, (Oct. 11, 2007). http://aidsmap.com/en/news/2402206.

E. J. Savage, “Results of a Europe-wide investigation to assess the presence of a new variant of Chlamydia trachomatis” Euro Surveillance, (2007). 12 (10) Epub.

[82] Liz Highleyman, “HCV may be sexually transmitted in HIV negative as well as HIV positive men,” CROI 2007, (March 2, 2007), http://www.hivandhepatitis.com/2007/icr/croi/docs/030207_d.html.

M. Fisher, et al., “Acute Hepatitis C in men who have sex with men is not confined to those infected with HIV , and their number continues to increase, “ 14th Conference on retroviruses and opportunistic infections, (Los Angeles, Feb. 25-28, 2007).

M. Danta et al, “Recent epidemic of acute hepatitis C…” (Mau 11, 2007) 21 (8) :pp983-991

[83] Timothy Wilkins, “Anal Cancer increasing among people living with HIV,” GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), (Sept. 2010), p.2

[84] Laud Humphreys, “Tearoom Trade: Impersonal sex in public place,” in Sociology Reader, ed. William Feigelman (NY: Praeger, 1972) pp 259-277; http://www.angelfire.com/or3/tss/tearoom.html.

[85] http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Circuit_party

[86]Amin Ghaziani, Thomas Cook, “Reducing HIV infections at circuit parties,” Journal of International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, (June 2004); http://web4.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/346/366/7919935w4

[87] Ibid.

[88] Michael J. Gross, “Has Manhunt Destroyed Gay culture: A cost-benefit analysis of our quest to get laid,” http://out.com/detail.sap?id=24005

[89] Ibid

[90] Ibid.

[91] Ibid.

[92] Simon Fanshawe, “Society now accepts gay men as equals. So why on earth do so many continue to behave like teenagers?” Guardian UK, (April 21, 2006). http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/apr/21/gayrights.comment/print

[93] Milton Wainberg, Andrew Kolodny, Jack Drescher, ed., Crystal Meth and Men Who Have Sex with Men: What Mental Health Care Professionals Need to Know (BinghamtonNY: Haworth Medical Press, 2006).

David Heitz, “Men behaving badly,” The Advocate (July 8, 1997): pp. 28-29.

[94] Signorile, p. 109

[95] Patrick Moore, “We are not OK,” Village Voice (June 14, 2005).

[96] Sherry Larkins, Cathy Reback, Steven Shoptaw, “HIV risk behaviors among gay male methamphetamine users: Before and after treatment,” in Milton Wainberg, Andrew Kolodny, Jack Drescher, ed., Crystal Meth and Men Who Have Sex with Men: What Mental Health Care Professionals Need to Know (Binghamton NY: Haworth Medical Press, 2006) p 126.

[97] Antonio Urbina, “Medical complication of crystal methamphetamine,”(in Milton Wainberg et al., eds. Crystal Meth and Men who have Sex with Men: What mental health care professionals need to know, published simultaneously published in Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, 2006, 10 (3/4): p.53.

[98] Kevin Sack, “H.I.V. Peril and Rising Drug Use,” New York Times (January 29, 1999).

[99] Milton Wainberg, Andrew Kolodny, Jack Drescher, ed., Crystal Meth and Men Who Have Sex with Men: What Mental Health Care Professionals Need to Know (Binghamton NY: Haworth Medical Press, 2006) co-published as Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, 10, no.3/4 (2006): pp.-12-13

[100] Ibid, p. 1.

[101] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circuit_party. Referencing Amin Ghaziani Thomas D. Cook, “Reducing HIV Infections at Circuit Parties: From Description to Explanation and Principles of Intervention Design,” Journal of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, (2005) 4 (2): p. 32.

[102] The Advocate (Dec 22, 1998) p. 39.

[103] Odets, (1994) p. 14.

[104] Edgardo Menvielle, Catherine Tuerk, “A support group for parents of gender-nonconforming boys, “ Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, (2001) 41 (8): pp 1010-1013.

[105] R. Friedman, L. Stern, “Juvenile Aggressivity and Sissiness in Homosexual and Heterosexual Males,” Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis. (1980) 8(3): pp. 427-440.

[106] Signorile, p. 168.

[107] Signorile p. 169.

[108] Signorile, p. 163-165.

[109] S. Zierler, et al. “Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and subsequent risk of HIV infection,” American Journal of Public Health, (1999) 81: pp. 572-575

[110] B.N. Bartholow et al “Emotional and behavioral and HIV risk associated with sexual abuse among adult homosexual and bisexual men, Child Abuse and Neglect (1994) 18: pp. 747-761.

[111] Brennan, (2007) p.1107.

[112] Elizabeth Wells, Magnus McGee, Annette Beautrais, “ Multiple aspects of sexual orientation: Prevalence and sociodemographic correlates in a New Zealand National Survey, “ Archives of Sexual Behavior, (June 22, 2010).

[113] D. Jorm et al, “Sexual orientation and mental health: Results from a community survey of young and middle-aged adults,” British Journal of Psychiatry, (2002) 180: pp. 423-427.

[114] Andrea L. Roberts et al., “Pervasive Trauma Exposure Among US Sexual Orientation Minority Adults and Risk of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” American Journal of Public Health, (2010) 100 (12): pp. 2433-2441.

[115] Seit Kalichman, David Rompa, “Sexually coerced and noncoerced gay and bisexual men: Factors relevant to risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, Journal of Sex Research, (1995) 32 (1): p. 45.

[116] Caroline Waterman, et al., “Sexual coercion in gay male and lesbian relationships,” Journal of Sex Research, (1989) 26 (1): pp 118-124.

[117] John Baier et al., “Patterns of sexual behavior, coercion, and victimization in university students,” Journal of College Student Development, (1991) 32: p.317

[118] Gregory Greenwood et al., “Battering victimization among a probability-based sample of men who have sex with men,” American Journal of Public Health, (2002) 92 (12): pp. 1964-1968.

[119] David Island, Patrick Letellier, Men who beat the Men who Love Them: Battered Gay Men and Domestic Violence,(Binghamton NY: Haworth, 1991)

[120] Rotello, Sexual Ecology.

[121] M. Morris, L. Dean, “Effect of sexual behavior change on long-term human immunodeficiency virus prevalence among homosexual men,” American Journal of Epidemiology, 1994, 140 (3): pp. 217-232.

[122] Donald Hoover, et al., “Estimating the 19878-1990 and future spread of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 in subgroups of homosexual men,” American Journal of Epidemiology, (1991) 134 (10): p. 190.

[123] Joe Kort, “Are gay male couples monogamous ever after,” Psychology Today, (Sept. 16, 2008).

[124] Scott James, “Many successful gay marriages share an open secret,” New York Times (Jan. 29, 2010)

[125] David McWhirter, Andrew Mattison, The Male Couple: How Relationships develop (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1984) p. 252.

[126] Blake Spears, Lanz Lowen, Beyond Monogamy: Lessons from Long-Term Male Couples in Non-Monogamous Relationships (2010); http://thecouplesstudy.com/wp-content/uploads/BeyondMonogamy_1_01.pdf

[127] Ibid, p. 4

[128] Ibid, p. 36

[129] Odets, (1995) p.198

[130] Michael Joseph Gross, “Has Manhunt Destroyed Gay Culture? A cost-benefit analysis of our quest to get laid,” Out Magazine, (Sept. 5, 2008). http://out.com/detail.asp?id=24005.

[131] Larry Kramer, Report from the Holocaust: The making of an AIDS activist (NY: St. Martins Press, 1989)

[132] Larry Kramer, The Tragedy of Today’s Gays (New York: Tarcher, 2005) p. 57.

[133] Rotello, p.208.

[134] Michelangelo Signorile, Life Outside: The Signorile Report on Gay Men: Sex, drugs, muscles, and the passages of life, (NY; Harper Collins, 1997)

[135] John Imrie et al., “A cognitive behavioural intervention to reduce sexually transmitted infections among gay men: randomised trial,” British Medical Journal, (Jun 16, 2001); http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0999/is_7300_322/ai_n27568633/?tag=content

[136] Signorile, p. 20.

[137] Signorile, p. 21.

[138] Kirk, p. 304.

[139] Ulrike Boehmer , Xiaopeng Miao, Al Ozonoff “Cancer survivorship and sexual orientation,” Cancer (2011) 117 (16), pp. 3796—3804.

Anil K. Chaturvedi, Eric A. Engels, William F. Anderson, Maura L. Gillison, “Incidence Trends for Human Papillomavirus—Related and —Unrelated Oral Squamous Cell Carcinomas in the United States,” Journal of Clinical Oncology. (2008)

[140] Harold Jaffe et al., “The reemerging HIV/AIDS epidemic in men who have sex with men,” Journal of the American Medical Association, (2007) 298 (20): pp. 2412-2414.

[141] ____ “Got HIV? Lifetime Cost $618,900” http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/11/02/health/webmd/main2146542.shtml

[142] ____ “Got HIV? Lifetime Cost $618,900” http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/11/02/health/webmd/main2146542.shtml


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