Between 2008 and 2010, new infections rose 12-percent for gay men while falling or remaining stable in all other populations. Transmission for young gay men spiked upwards 22 percent. MSM faced 30 times the HIV risk that straight guys faced. A gay African-American man was six times likelier to be infected with HIV than a white gay man, and a Hispanic man was three times likelier. Researcher Ron Stall’s 2009 prediction that more than half of young gay men would be HIV-positive by age 50 suddenly seemed a chilling underestimate.
In the early 1980s, faced with seeming extinction, gay men invented safer sex. Supported by pamphlets, videotapes and workshops, promulgated across gay sexual networks, safer sex emphasized lower-risk sex acts and using condoms for high-risk anal sex. Empowered to take control of their lives in the face of a deadly virus, gay guys drove HIV incidence down by 75 percent between 1984 and 1993. Believing that safer sex was all the prevention we’d ever need, we who were AIDS activists never fought for prevention research or the development of new prevention tools. We focused on securing treatments for the sick and potentially sick.
But we were wrong to think the original community consensus behind safer sex could survive an evolving epidemic. As early as 1993, even as AIDS deaths mounted, HIV incidence for gay men began a slow upward drift. Combination antiretroviral therapy, introduced in 1997, would make HIV a manageable disease for most who received treatment. The term “barebacking” came into use to refer to a conscious decision to discard condoms, at first an exceptional position that soon spread. Most ongoing prevention programs, unequal to the new epidemic, simply tinkered with the safer sex workshops of an earlier generation. A slow rise in HIV incidence for gay guys continued until the recent acceleration captured in the latest incidence report.
Read the full article on the Huffington Post.