An Inclusive Litany

7/7/02

Reporting on findings announced at the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, the New York Times notes that 90 percent of gay and bisexual black men in the United States aged 15-29 who tested positive for HIV were unaware they had the virus until researchers conducting the study informed them. Among Hispanic gays the figure is 70 percent, and among gay whites it is 60 percent who were unaware of their condition, were not receiving treatment, and were likely infecting others. An estimated 1 million Americans are HIV-positive, and 300,000 have died of AIDS.

At the same conference, Dr. Bruce Walker of Harvard revealed a case of a Boston man whose immune system had been successfully fighting the HIV infection on its own, but who subsequently had unprotected sex and became reinfected with a modified strain of HIV, after which his health declined precipitously. Walker's stunning findings implied that the HIV virus was sufficiently mutable and durable as to make any prospect of finding an effective vaccine highly unlikely.

Meanwhile, a headline in the Gay Pride issue of the Village Voice heralded "The Return of Public Sex." Reporting approvingly on anonymous sex at abandoned Hudson River docks and Manhattan orgies that are advertised on the Internet and have $20 entrance fees, Steve Weinstein writes: "After years of AIDS anxiety and government repression, gay public sex is bigger and better than ever." A similar headline in the Gay Pride issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian announced that "Gat Sluts Are Back." While praising "unapologetic homo-lust," self-described "gay slut" Simon Sheppard reports on large increases in unprotected sex, leading to new infections. "The threat of HIV was (and is) real and deadly," Sheppard writes. "But the epidemic was also seized upon as an instrument of control, both by assimilationists within the queer community who wanted us all to behave like good girls and by those in the larger heterocentrist culture who were both envious of and repelled by men who numbered their sex partners in the dozens. Or hundreds. Or thousands."

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