Mailbox: 04.22.09-04.28.09

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Evolution of a Message

A very funny thing happened to me last week. I was eating Chinese food and reading the cover article in the NYPress by Seth Michael Donsky on negotiating safe sex (“The Trouble With Safe Sex,”April 15-21).

Unknowingly, Seth approached me and asked me my opinion since he happened to be in the restaurant eating as well. I must say this was an insightful, well-stated article, gutsy in its honesty about what happens in the world of ordinary working- and middle-class gay men. I just want to praise your paper for publishing something that is important to us all, and putting it on the cover. I subsequently saw a presumably gay black man reading the article on the subway. This is an important topic to cover, as AIDS continues to acculturate itself here in NYC. Great job, great item for reflection and discussion.

Donsky’s style was to present the situation—not to judge or make an example of—so not sensational. But in AIDS education, the sensational does not work any longer.

Thanks for printing the reality of gay life and decisions we gay men face every day, always. I have been here in NYC almost 25 years, I arrived at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, during the death years. It’s been quite a journey for me, and after all this, it was refreshing to see a new discussion about the evolution of AIDS and gay men. —Mark Kuebel, East Village

The Trouble With the Truth

So I recently met a guy on a social networking site. He pursued me and wanted to meet up for sex. I choose to tell people about my status way before there is a chance of “heat of the moment” decision about having sex. My honesty with the guy turned him off instantly. Like, it was fine to be HIV but have some class and do not talk about it…THAT is exactly why the disease continues to spread vigorously.

People say it is no big deal anymore, well I for one would give anything to go back and make more responsible choices about protecting my health. I was diagnosed at 19, and its been 15 years. I have never been sick with any AIDS-related illness, but the fear that lingers is horrific, and the sadness from knowing I did this to myself is planted.

Please, do not under-estimate the problems that come with being HIV. Do not be scared, but be smart—please… —Jimmie

Overrated or Not

One online commenter praised Donsky’s analysis, calling it “extraordinarily insightful.

His discussion of what ‘bareback’ really means, i.e, that it it is the ‘conscious lack of condoms in the face of the safe-sex message….that generates the excitement…’ is absolutely true from my experience. I’d never really thought about why “pre-condom” movies aren’t nearly as exciting as “bareback” movies, but of course, that’s exactly the reason…the pre-condom movies are missing the “badness” that is so important to the fetish. This is a remarkable article.

Thanks for publishing it.” But another reader felt like it was blowing things out of proportion, writing: “The quickest way to spot a beat-up in this area is to ask whether the article presents any facts/figures on actual rates of condom usage.The majority of gay men still use condoms for anal sex – all or most of the time. Sending a message to gay men that condom use is on its deathbed is highly irresponsible, since it may lead them to think well, why should I bother.”