I really hate generalizations. And especially those about us gays. Like anyone else, we don’t all share the same interests and we all have different, unique plans for the future. Gay men, I like to say, are like condoms: We come in different colors, shapes and flavors, and some even come from a different country. We’re both also very effective methods in preventing surprise visits from the stork. Just sayin’.
What many people fail to realize is that “gay” refers to a specific sexual orientation – just one among the many types of sexual attraction – and not an entire way of life. The one and only statement to which presumably all gay men would nod their heads in agreement is this: We fuck (or want to fuck) other men.
So I want this column to serve as a reminder to all my gay honeyboys out there to not only enjoy yourselves as sexual beings, but to also be mindful of the risks associated with your right to have sex with men. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being sexually active and I pass no judgment on those who occasionally dabble in the art of general skankery, but we need to remember to be careful, be smart and of course, we need to be extremely safe.
According to a recent survey, a number of men who have unprotected sex with men believe their risk of HIV infection is lower than it actually is. Hugh Klein, Ph.D., from the Prevention Sciences Research Center at Morgan State University in Baltimore, presented his research on “barebacking” (condom-less anal sex) at the American Public Health Association’s 138th Annual Meeting. And as both a safe sex enthusiast and gay man, I am completely in shock and even upset with some of Klein’s findings.
The study revealed that, of the 332 American men who participated, about 15 percent of them believed HIV could be washed away in the shower. Another 28 percent were of the belief that a vaccine exists for HIV, but they just hadn’t taken it themselves. And surprisingly enough, a third of the surveyed men think AIDS can be cured.
Unfortunately, honeybees, I’m not making this up. In case you weren’t completely sure of it yourself: HIV cannot simply be washed away, no matter how much we’d all appreciate that – it’s a virus that infects vital cells of the immune system. HIV then causes AIDS, which is the actual set of immunodeficiency symptoms. Unfortunately, no vaccine against the virus currently exists and there is no known cure for AIDS.
But gay men aren’t oblivious to the severity of HIV and AIDS. In fact, men scored fairly high on the knowledge portion of the survey, said Klein, who asked factual questions about HIV, AIDS, the modes of transmission and the various ways to prevent infection. On average, men answered 11 of the 15 questions correctly, which was a “moderately high level of knowledge,” according to an article on Klein’s research on Medscape.com. Yet, the high levels of knowledge among the participating men didn’t affect their willingness to engage in unprotected sex. Over 50 percent of them believed they had only a slight chance or no chance at all of HIV infection.
The truth is, HIV could potentially affect any one of us – and not just the gays. In fact, statistics show that African American women are more likely than any other demographic group to have HIV and not know it. We all find solace in an “it could never happen to me” mentality at some point, but when it comes to sex – and unprotected sex at that – this frame of mind is misleading and can be dangerous for everyone. It could happen to you. And safe sex should not be taken for granted. Condoms are like a really good friend: If you respect them and grant them the attention they deserve (i.e. if you take the time to put it on properly), they’ll try their hardest to make sure you stay safe, healthy and happy.
While this column is informative for us all, it was my fabulous gay boys whom I wanted to take a moment to especially address. That study scared me, you know? And it’s never bad to learn more – the more educated we are, the safer sex we have, and the healthier we remain! So whether you’re having fun enjoying the unconfined pleasures of single life, in a relationship having tons of great sex, or somewhere in between, you need to be cautious and knowledgeable of the associated risks. Being your friend in the paper (and of course a fellow friend of Dorothy’s), I really want to emphasize how important it is for you and your partner(s) to protect yourselves. Get tested regularly, disclose information honestly, and make sure you completely trust your partner. We gays need to look out for each other. And that’s exactly why I’m here.
MARIO LUGO wishes all you honeybees a wonderful Thanksgiving break. He is personally thankful for his family, his friends, his super cool boyfriend, and the opportunity to reach all of you here every Tuesday. His sincerest gratitude also goes out to all those who enjoy reading his columns just as much as he enjoys writing them! He can be reached at email@example.com.