Saturday, 6 November 2010

The HIV Gag

A comment piece on Pink News by Scott Roberts (a Gaydar DJ apparently) seems to be popping up on Twitter and Facebook this morning. Roberts has written an interesting piece on why gay men seem to have stopped fighting AIDS. He argues that gay men need to hold their elected representatives to account on HIV issues and make HIV/AIDS a political issue once again.

I'm afraid I can't join the online consensus of a chorus of people saying "oh yes, quite right". I think Roberts comments are symptomatic of the problem and not a solution. The issue of HIV/AIDS is all too political. There are too many accepted orthodoxies, too little tolerance of alternative views - especially in the gay media - and this censorship, this gagging of diverse voices, serves only to contribute to gay men "switching off" to safe sex messages.

Far from a lack of politics on this issue, safer sex is crowbarred into almost everything. Any Pride event, any sex class, any gay youth group - it's there. Any gay magazine is full of leaflets. Safer sex messages on HIV/AIDS are all around gay men. Websites such as Gaydar include the 'category' asking people if they 'always' practice safer sex and yet there is also the acceptance that many guys just say 'always' because there is an expectation that they should - even though they don't. It denotes what is expected of them, not what they do.

So, if we want people to sit up and listen, we need to hear alternative voices. We need to have a real debate and accept the complexities of this issue. Gay men negotiate safer sex - and the binary category of good/bad that people like Roberts seemingly preach is utterly divorced from many gay men's lives. Let's get real.

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