Tuesday, September 11, 2007


JoeMyGod just put up a startling post about a 33% increase of HIV/AIDS infection amongst gay men in the last five years and almost DOUBLE the cases in men between 13-19. I've long since blamed the gay community for pushing the issue under a rug after the invention of Protease Inhibitor drugs- that is my theory. My theory is that once men started living healthy HIV+ lives and the physical side-effects (lypodystrophy, distended belly , etc) of medicines declined, gay men, in fear of offending those healthy but positive, stopped speaking so outwardly about the topic and pushed the issue under a rug of safe-sex education and condom give-aways. Unfortunately, this doesn't work. Young people are coming out at younger and younger ages and they need to know the dangers of the world in which they are about to enter. We need to speak about this issue, we need to embed within the young mind education on self-worth and having the right to discuss status and not be worried about offending people. Also, activism needs to be reinvented. The old screaming and sign-waving, while still effective, does not reach the young community. We have to keep up with the cell phones, the myspace, and current media in order to reach them. Check out this PSA which I wrote, produced and directed. It's something that GMHC told me is a fear campaign but I believe it's reality. It seems to resonate loudly with both the young and old generations.
I am going to do something about this. I'm not sure what, yet. But I promise you I will not let this go without a fight!

JoeMyGod's Post:
Young men who have sex with men are contracting HIV at a rate 33% higher than five years ago, according to recent figures released by the NYC Health Department. For men who have sex with men (MSM), the under 30 age group experienced almost 500 reported new cases of HIV last year, versus 374 in 2001.

Perhaps even more frightening, cases among MSM in the 13-19 age group doubled. Black and Hispanic men contracted HIV at a rate much higher than whites, double for blacks and more than 50% more for Hispanics. More than 90% of new HIV cases among MSM under 20 were black or Hispanic. One tiny bit of good news: the annual number of new cases in older MSM declined by 22%. In Manhattan, the new cases are centered in East and Central Harlem, Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen.

Debra Frasier-Howe, president of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, called the latest numbers "devastating." Frasier-Howe pleads, "We must ask all New Yorkers to accept some responsibility for helping our young people protect themselves. Their lives are not dispensable."

NYC is now distributing more than 3 million free condoms a month. Every gay hook-up site promotes safer sex, usually on their main page. Every bar and nightclub has a bucket of free condoms by the door, usually near a stack of safer sex brochures. We have subway ads, bus shelter ads, public service announcements on television and radio. The black churches have come miles in their stance about MSM. Nothing is working. Society is evolving too slowly to save these kids. Of course, the advances in HIV therapy are somewhat at play in making HIV less feared, but somebody has GOT to come up with a new idea.


Croft said...

Eric, I love the psa, very smart, clever. And you're right, something needs to happen with activism...I'm without answers. The virtual world encourages a convenient hedonist...how do you turn them on to activism? Humor I suppose. Or sexy poster-boys.

GMHC is right, the psa is fear based, but fear is HEALTHY! It's a survival instinct.

Keep up the good work! This is exciting!

Paris said...

Ditto what croft said about the PSA - clever is good!

I do wonder if the age difference is part of the problem: the process by which one goes about influencing the sexual behavior of people 20-something and older is quite different than for people who are in the midst of puberty. The former have a variety of levels of comfort with their sexuality, the latter can be assumed to generally not be very comfortable, at least because the experience is so new, but also the host of other issues surrounding MSM.

farmboyz said...

I would disagree with GMHC. I think your video is exactly what's needed to reach at least those who are sometimes compromised by alcohol. Who among us has not had blood drawn and wondered if this time...
One group remains elusive: the meth group. I meet so many of them in the after hours, and there are even more that I never see who are meeting on line. The only way to combat that would be to infiltrate and clog their avenues of hooking up (i.e., work the way the meds work) by getting in their face at the point of hook up. This would take an army of willing volunteers. These guys are not bothered that I turn down their party/play invitations. They simply move on to someone else, and there are always plenty of willing partners. And, they are driven beyond rational reaction.

stpetecoyote said...

Great PSA...and yeah it is fear based...but as someone that all too familiar with sitting there as they take out vial after vial after vial because I was a dumb**s--it gets the point across I think. Hopefully it gets the point across to some that hasn't already been through it.

BigAssBelle said...

Eric, that is excellent. Maybe it's fear based but who cares? That's exactly what can happen post-fucking: abject terror and that "oh shit what have I done" and promises never to do it again.

At least that's the way I figure some guys must feel after risky sex. There are likely others who simply don't care and don't give it a second thought, but for those who are sometimes safe and sometimes not, this could be really, really effective.

Good for you, Eric.

Greg said...

I agree, it's a great PSA. The scare tactic angle needs to be re-instated because it seems manyo fthe younger generation see HIV/AIDS as something similar to diabetes: even though it's incurable, it can be controlled with the proper medication. But why take that chance when safe measures are available and if you use your head?

Amicus said...

On the psa, I think it is great, Eric!

Maybe what is needed is not watching it, but doing it, sorta like that program in which young juveniles get taken to this-or-that prison to see what 'hard-core' time looks like. (Not that there is any clear way to run such a program, but still ...).

After that, I have no special insights.

Strictly from the point of modifying behavior, one cannot target what to do *exactly* until one properly diagnosis why such behavior is occuring.

Of course, those statistics seem hard to gather. But, without them, what's left are 'best guesses' and scatter-shot approaches that one hopes "reach" the target in the right way.

For instance, we don't know if the increase in risky activity is due to a change in attitudes, drug-related or not, self-deprecating or not (i.e. fuk-it-all!), or related to a perceived cocktail-and-disability 'safety net' or not; whether it is due to a lower active sexual age and, plausibly, teenagers who simply don't have the skills to "negotiate" (demand) safe sex, even if they have the will to do so; etc., etc.

Zeitzeuge said...

I just posted something on my blog about our communities complacency.

After watching religious nut cases invade our gayborhood yesterday, yelling and screaming for hours that we were going to hell and not ONE person confronted them during the entire time, it made me realize how COMPLACENT our community has become. We sit back and do nothing.

The sad thing is complacency regarding AIDS awareness, prevention, research and fundraising has all been affected.

Y | O | Y said...

Keep up the great work!

patrick said...

Thank you Eric, I join you in this. I am amazed that anyone under the age of 40 has any question about safe sex. We have to continue to fight, and its more than just knowledge there...it's glamorizing unsafe sex.

Jim said...

Very good PSA. Fear based? Of course! But that's what is necessary and absolutely justified because people only modify their behavior and thoughts surrounding that behavior because they FEAR the consequences of that behavior.

I'm so glad to see people talking about this. It is only getting worse and something needs to happen...

zej27@hotmail.com said...

I like your PSA and agree and respect your response. The reason I like your PSA is that it isn't about education, I think most young men know the facts, it's about using the knowledge and changing before you have to regret it.

Eyalie said...

Eric Leven, you are the best thing ever. Your activism inspires me to put on a rubber.

Mark said...

Your PSA is beyond excellent.

I'm not sure why "fear-based" is an issue. It depicts a pretty common and realistic scenario. I've been through it a few times, as I'm sure so many of us have. It's our reality. If that's fear-based, then so is our very existance.

Yes, it's important for activism to be re-invented. We can't all be waiting for the world to change. Some of us may have to actually change it ourselves.

Red7Eric said...

As I wrote on my own blog earlier today, I'm convinced it's because the generations within the gay community just don't talk to one another. Unlike blacks and Jews, gay people aren't brought up in gay families, and our history/culture isn't passed on in the same way.

Leo said...

I would argue that this PSA isn't fear based it's consequence based.

There's a difference. Yes it's true that thanks to successful drug therapies HIV isn't the death sentence that it once was and for that reason strategies that harken back to the pre-protease inhibitor days aren't appropriate.

But, unfortunately many AIDS organizations seem to have taken this to mean we can never touch on the negative consequences of HIV and/or high risk behaviors. This has eviscerated much of the prevention communications that have been produced in the last several years.

As someone who has worked in medical/pharma communications I know it's difficult to get people to comply with therapeutic regimens even when the benefits of such regimens should seem obvious.

To suggest you're going to modify behaviors--get young people to practice safe sex--without ever touching on the negative consequences of unsafe sex isn't very viable. And yes I'm sure when focus grouped young men will tell you they don't like the negative messages--it's human nature--no one likes to be brought down or bummed out. But what people like in focus groups and what works in practice are not necessarily the same thing.

This PSA strikes the right tone. It makes it clear that the sex you have can in fact have life altering consequences without heavy handed invocations of early death, etc.

Good work.