‘Gay generation gap’ over HIV

Perry N. Halkitis is professor of applied psychology, public health and population health; director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies; and associate dean of the Global Institute of Public Health at New York University. He is author of the book "The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience."

Perry N. Halkitis is professor of applied psychology, public health and population health; director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies; and associate dean of the Global Institute of Public Health at New York University. He is author of the book “The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience.”

(CNN) — Unprotected sexual behavior among men who have sex with men has risen steadily since 2005, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, released just before World AIDS Day.

The data, drawn from the National HIV Health Behavior Surveillance System, indicated a rise in unprotected anal intercourse by 20% in a one-year period and were seen by some as a call to arms.

Does this mean gay men are no longer worried about HIV? Many health commissioners and policy-makers on both the local and national levels, old-school activists, fellow academics and researchers and reporters used these data to augment their argument that HIV is no longer an issue of concern for gay men, whose primary route of transmission is unprotected anal sex.

It has been suggested that gay men, especially young gay men, no longer fear contracting the disease, that AIDS is perceived as an easily managed chronic condition and that infection holds little consequence for those newly diagnosed. And then the “blame game” begins, which does nothing to help deal with the issue.

The reality is that some of my peers and members of my own generation, the AIDS Generation — those of us who lived through the most dismal and darkest moments of AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, prior to the implementation of effective therapies in 1996 — also expressed similar horror when I interviewed them for my book last year.

In fact, this very issue — that of finger-pointing and assignment of blame and shame to gay men — came through very clearly in the voices of the men during the course of our conversations and interviews.

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