35% of MSM in Kenya have HIV! 1

HIV incidence among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Kenya is as high as 35%, investigators report in the online edition of AIDS. Incidence was just 6% for bisexual men, but was 35% in men who only had sex with other men

This should be a terrifying wake-up call for every political leader in Africa but, sadly, it won’t because likely none of them is paying attention.The leaders that do, such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Cameroon’s Paul Biya, would see this report as excellent news.

35%???!!!

Oh my goodness gracious me!

Second money quote:

A total of 449 HIV-negative MSM were recruited to the study. Of these, 372 (83%) reported sex with men and women. The remaining 77 men (17%) reported sex exclusively with other men.

Yes, that means that a lot of men who have sex with men are also having sex with women.  The repercussions for entire communities are too dreadful to think about but there is little point in pretending that our leaders understand this … or care.

It boggles the mind that with these startling statistics, leading government health professionals in sub-Saharan Africa seem to be mute. What such numbers means surely can’t be lost on them.

35%??? And this is just in the one country where studies have been done. What about places like Uganda where no research in this areas is likely to be done in the foreseeable future?

Breion Diamond goes bareback 1

Breion Diamond on set

Not sure what to make of this, and I can’t tell how recent this development is, but it would seem that Breion Diamond has given up the ghost and decided to do bareback porn. Yes, that would mean that he is now having sex, with the cameras rolling, without wearing a condom.

Long known for making porn movies with his manhood properly sheathed, Diamond has, nonetheless, never really been an impressive nude exotic dancer or porn actor, which might explain why he would dispense with condoms after initially not filming without them.

He was/is too slight, too small (in most areas), not well-defined for an actor who touted himself as a top, and he has never managed to exude and sustain sex appeal in the amounts people who take off their clothes for money need today. While his boyish looks carried him through the earlier times, the competitors’ muscle tones got sharper, the pudenda got bigger (well, better-sized actors came along) and the acts got more sizzling, leaving Breion looking  like yesterday’s porn star.

So, one can guess that Diamond has finally succumbed and gotten to the arena that is getting the most play in town; bareback sex.

It’s not a fashionable thing to say but here is yet more anecdotal evidence that bareback sex (on and off camera) has lost the stigma it had at the height of the Aids epidemic in the early 90s. What to do about it is, of course the issue exercising a lot of writers and opinion formers. Los Angeles is trying to force the porn actors to put a rubber on it, and one has to wait and see what level of success this will achieve if the legislation gets voters’ approval.

Breion Diamond

Money quote about the circle movie producers are trying to square in a bid to stay relevant to their buying public while making a nod to the health implications of eschewing condoms entirely:

Diane Duke of the adult film lobby group Free Speech Coalition …  has said previously that the measure was “government overreach  into the way we make movies.” Porn producers have said they tried using  condoms in the late 1990s following an HIV scare, but consumers were not interested in spending money on porn with condoms.

Yours truly doesn’t have any answers either apart from following the admittedly vague argument that a cure is the only solution.

DIY HIV Testing Kit Approved in the USA 2

So the United States has approved a do-it-yourself (DIY) HIV home testing kit. The OraQuick In-Home HIV test will be available in a matter of months, allowing people to obtain a result within 20 to 40 minutes.

It was about time, too, given the realities surrounding HIV/Aids as we know them today.

The fact is that HIV/Aids is now the new diabetes – chronic but perfectly manageable. Even in sub-Saharan Africa where health services are as moribund as they will likely kill you merely by visiting them, you now stand a greater chance of dying of malaria or being run over and killed by a wayward motorcyclist on a busy street than of succumbing to HIV melancholia. And that can only be a good thing especially if one considers the sure death sentence HIV/Aids was only 20 years ago.

In 2012, going for an HIV/Aids test no longer requires preparing ropes, suicide pills or razor blades. HIV no longer portends the end of the world it used to and so the American initiative makes perfect sense since it recognizes that it is now more vital for everyone to know their status and seek treatment than to worry about what it might mean for one’s short-term fallibility should a test indeed be positive.

Listening to the American medical personnel who commented on the DIY approval on the BBC, I was dumbfounded when he said that almost a quarter (more than 250,000) of the people carrying the HIV/Aids virus in the USA don’t know their status. If that is the situation in a country where education and basic medical facilities are readily available, imagine what the reality is in the third world where those two elements are a luxury in most communities.

You might hear arguments about the need for counseling to make the reception of the HIV/Aids diagnosis palatable. But I am of the view that counseling is actually useless before one takes the test for the simple reason that it is usually conducted by strangers who cannot impact your decision-making in the few minutes it takes to take the test and find out the results. In that light, pre-testing counseling is overrated, and it works best if the ‘patient’ seeks out the counseling if they feel they need it rather it being foisted on them by a system that has long [erroneously in my view] assumed that counseling is of any benefit before the test is taken.

Therefore, the DIY HIV/Aids kit can’t come fast enough for the entire world.

East African Legislative Assembly passes HIV bill 1

The-flags-of-the-member-states-of-the-East-African-Community

Behind the Mask is reporting some great news coming out of the regional parliament of East Africa. It is still a little known and underrated body called the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), but it has put out a statement calling for all the regional governments to provide HIV/Aids health services to all citizens, including “vulnerable” groups without discrimination; a statement that will force the governments of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi to, at the very least, debate who the vulnerable groups are.

Logically, the strategy should be for activist groups to ensure that the debate should focus on who the vulnerable groups are;  orphans, waifs, male and female sex workers, women who are still treated as chattels by men, lesbian and gay men, prisoners and so on and so forth … then keep hammering away at it until none of them can be spoken of in isolation.

The EALA pronouncement provides an opportunity to  make Ugandan (East African, African) gay men and women part of the mainstream conversation. We, too, suffer from the same health issues as anyone else and that puts the focus on gay men and women who are asking for the right not to die of preventable diseases – a right no one will argue is borne out of thinking that gays are special as the argument has tended to be put forward, quite convincingly, whenever we say we are being persecuted or hated by Ugandans who we, rather unfairly, tar with the indiscriminate brush of homophobia.

As I have argued on a number of occasions, elsewhere, hate or persecution are amorphous concepts that most people in Uganda (Africa) don’t really understand unless they see one of their own beaten up in the streets or jailed, blood on the streets, bodies being put in the ground, that sort of thing.

It is arrant hyperbole to argue that Ugandans (for instance) are homophobic – most Ugandans may be bewildered by the concept of homosexuality, but they don’t walk anywhere near the circles we hang out in to have any impact on our lives one way or the other. The people hounding us are a tiny but very vocal minority whose agenda is selfish personal gain, but who nonetheless haven’t managed yet to turn the entire country into the kind of homophonic maniacs foreigners have been led to believe Ugandans are. The reason for this is that Ugandans (I think Africans in general) are simply not that kind of people.

It is also true to argue that it is safer to be a gay man in Uganda than it is in many parts of the United States of America. If you don’t believe this, try checking out how many people have been killed for being gay in Uganda (or jailed) in the last 10 years and compare them to how many have been attacked and even killed in various parts of America in just the last 3 years despite some of the best protections against homophobia one can find on the planet.

In that sense, then, gay men and women in Uganda don’t suffer from hate or persecution that should require governments in Europe to make hysterical phone calls to Yoweri Museveni threatening this and that if gays are not accommodated when they are also not making phone calls  asking him to end female genital mutilation, the arresting and jailing of journalists and opposition politicians, rounding up of street protestors and jailing them for years without trial and, of course, misuse of state funds which deny basic health services to millions, etc. All of these ills have claimed and continue to claim more victims than ‘gay hate’ and one can rightly argue that they deserve greater attention.

But once the debate shifts to ignoring vulnerable groups in the fight against HIV/Aids, with the government of Uganda itself admitting that HIV cases are going up again, then we have a solid case to make to the wider Ugandan population if we argue that gay men and women must be included in the strategy to check the spread of HIV. Every Ugandan will see that no one is asking for special consideration as has been argued where ‘gay persecution’ is concerned.

And how can you make the argument that gay men and women are being ignored in the fight against HIV/Aids, which the government’s own reports show they are, without mentioning men who have sex with men? How can you mention HIV/Aids provision for LGBTI and avoid talking about gay men and women? How can any government plausibly talk about providing access to health services for LGBTI and then also continue talking about making homosexual activity punishable by death and/or imprisonment?

See why the strategy and focus need to shift to HIV/Aids and health for all vulnerable groups, including LGBTI?

Is homophobia the main reason for runaway HIV infections in Black America? 2

Take the trouble to read this report by Charles Stevens on the White House conference that was convened to look at the issues behind the runaway spread of HIV among young black gay men.

While it is gratifying to see that this matter is gaining such prominence, and Stevens makes the same observation, some of the conclusions reached leave one wondering how a set of grown up experts can be so cowardly in the face of their own overwhelming evidence.

Take this conclusion which was reached at the Morehouse School of Medicine conference:

Homophobia must frame how we think about the devastating impact of HIV. This was a key insight to the entire conference. Anti-gay stigma, HIV stigma, and environments that dehumanize and demean sexual minorities and gender-nonconforming people create a perfect storm for HIV and other public health disparities. Young, black MSM and transgender people are vulnerable in a variety of ways, including to physical and psychic homophobic violence,  familial and community rejection, discrimination, and a litany of other kinds of social stigma. These vulnerabilities fuel health disparities, particularly with regard to HIV. As Dr. Patrick Sullivan, an Emory University professor and researcher, stated, “homophobia is a public health hazard.”  In this sense, the scientific and social, negative health outcomes and human rights and, by extension, sexual rights, are not separate spheres but are intricately connected within a wider spectrum of issues we must work on together, and not separately.

While homophobia plays a role (mostly in Africa where social and political regimes are still at a loss about how to deal with the gay question itself), it is a stretch to blame homophobia for the rampant spread of HIV in the black American population in 2012 if you set aside the cases of rape, sexual violence, down low conduct and other practices that may be against the will of the participants.

These young black men in urban America who constitute the highest numbers of new HIV cases are not ill-educated or put upon. They have a multitude of choices: free condoms, non-penetrative sex, abstinence, masturbation all of which they know about. Now, if we were talking about sub-Saharan Africa, one might understand the argument about lack of information but that kind of argument is silly in America today.

In Washington, DC (for instance) where the spread of HIV in the black gay community seems totally out of control, being gay is the new black. Yes, to be gay in DC is so old hat that people are more surprised when anyone gets away with looking at a gay man or woman in a way that might be construed as remotely homophobic.

Condoms can be picked up free of charge in any gay bar in DC, including predominantly black gay bars that our boys frequent. Yes, the family, pastor or community might be homophobic but how does homophobia prevent these young men from picking up free condoms as they  leave The Fireplace or the Bachelors’ Mill (DC) and, more pertinently, using them? ? At what point during the sexual encounter does homophobia rear its ugly head to make bareback sex the preferred form of sexual gratification when condoms and lube were available where the hook-up happened? It would be interesting to hear the answer to that.

Homophobia is a convenient scapegoat because these “experts” are totally frightened of admitting that the HIV battle in the black community is lost largely due to personal volition.The “experts” are afraid of saying this openly because of the obvious racial hornets’ nest it would stir up. If homophobia were the main culprit, there is more homophobia in Idaho than in Washington, DC or Atlanta, Georgia which is where every gay man runs to find himself. But the incidences of HIV infection in Idaho are far below those in the respective cities mentioned. Why is that?

The truth lies in a combination of factors of course, but the chief ones must be the following:

We black people are traditionally very secretive about sex, sexuality and sexual conduct, much more so than white folks who are not as prudish about sexual matters. So, even when we know the risks, we throw caution to the wind in greater numbers than our white counterparts because the of the level of furtiveness in how we conduct ourselves sexually. It is not for nothing that the term Down Low (DL) was coined with black men in mind.

Overbearing Catholicism explains why the spread among the Latino gay population is on a firm upward trajectory, too; religion makes Latino young men hide from uncomfortable truths about the need for safe sex because they will not want to talk condoms when they are still grappling with the significance of having homosexual sex. But the condoms are available in shopping mall dispensers (which of course don’t ask you who you are going to have sex with), straight and gay bars as well as in specialized centers all over major cities. Yet the spread of HIV/Aids is greatest in these same cities where, rather ironically, we are always told, one can be anonymous and be oneself.

Secondly the battle to stem the tide of new HIV cases getting out of control has been lost because HIV/Aids no longer carries the stigma it did 20-25 years ago. In this article by The Atlantic.com, they grasped the nettle and touched on this thorny subject.  Black boys are not picking up the condoms provided because they don’t give a damn about HIV/Aids anymore. The conclusion from the ‘experts’ interviewed’ was/is that there is no other solution to check the spread of HIV short of finding a cure.

Their conclusion makes sense.

Young people didn’t witness the devastation that HIV/Aids wreaked upon the world in the late 80s and early 90s so they don’t really relate to the HIV/Aids is a scourge message. Well, one might argue, how about white young men who are not catching HIV in the same numbers?

My guess is that white folks have an inbuilt advantage over blacks and Latinos because they are not as prudish about sex and sexuality. So, they tackle these subjects openly from when their children can talk, remove the stigma about sex and create an atmosphere where STDs and how to avoid them are dinner topics. HIV/Aids and its impact is thus all too familiar with white people who, let’s face it, are more circumspect about how illnesses like that might affect their long-term outlook, economic prospects and cost of health care. Black people on the other hand shun such discussions (homophobia can rightly be blamed here) and their children find out through trial and error even when there are parents to guide them through the landmines of unprotected sex.

That means, in my mind, that the spread of HIV/Aids is out of control in the black and latino populations due to racial reasons. Homophobia has a small role to play, especially when and how we discuss sex and sexuality, but our racial attitudes towards matters sexual are more to blame than the idea that haters are preventing us from picking up a condom and putting it on when we have sex with whoever. That is manifestly not true in the United States where information, condoms, testing and medication are as accessible to gay men as they are to heterosexuals especially in urban areas where the spread of HIV is highest.

Yes, I am suggesting that even when we black people know how HIV spreads, we are hamstrung by our own laissez-faire, live and let live, attitudes towards sex which makes us throw caution to the wind far too quickly, which makes us act in sexually reckless ways despite knowing what the consequences might be, which makes us go for testing far too late, and which renders us mute even when the truth about the rate at which we are catching chronic but preventable diseases is staring us in the face. We are great at talking about HIV/Aids (there goes the argument that we don’t have the information) but are terrible at following up on our talk because … that is the way we are about matters sexual.

Homophobia is still the number one culprit in the spread of HIV/Aids in the gay populations of  sub-Saharan Africa – see this report from Uganda’s New Vision which says that 18,000 men who have sex with men were ignored in the provision of HIV/Aids services in 2011. Twenty years hence, arguing that homophobia is also the culprit in the United States is plain, simple refusal to face the uncomfortable truth.

African-Americans are disproportionately catching HIV because of the same reasons African-Americans are having unplanned babies at such a high rate despite the information overload: young black people are ignoring the ‘safe sex’ messages and carrying on regardless.

That is why finding a cure is the only solution to the HIV/Aids crisis in America. The message is well-known but not many people in the black population are paying it, will pay it any attention – unless, we again begin to see our friends, neighbors and lovers popping off like fire flies in agonizing deaths. In other words, the return of stigma (fear) towards HIV/Aids might halt its spread. Short of that, a cure is the only solution.

Come Get Yours: Unprotected (Raw) Sex Parties!

At a time when one is reading apocalyptic headlines about the HIV/Aids pandemic in black America and sub-Saharan Africa, it boggles the mind to see adverts – such as the recent one below – advertising unprotected sex parties.


What is one to make of this? Do the organizers of these parties know something the rest of us don’t? Isn’t this the equivalent of inviting people to a game of Russian roulette?

True, HIV/Aids treatment in the United States and much of the developed world has made such huge advances that many now refer to HIV as the “new Diabetes.” That might logically suggest that black Americans are contracting HIV at the pandemic rates reported perhaps due to the fact they know that the disease, though chronic, is no longer a death sentence. But studies also seem to suggest that black men and women are dying from HIV in America at rates almost equal to those in the Third World – apparently because there is still such a stigma about HIV in the black straight and gay community – despite the mountains of information available at the click of a mouse.

Which brings one back to the puzzling question: if HIV is still such a scourge in the minds of our black community, how can it make sense for anyone to organize and/or advertise bare backing parties? More to the point, how can it make any sense for anyone to attend such parties? Is our love for sex really so base that we are prepared to eschew all rational thought for a moment of brief pleasure?

And if unsafe gay sex is indulged in so wantonly in a world where there is no shortage of knowledge about the dangers of unprotected sex, what does that portend for our gay boys in the Third World where facilities are threadbare, governments disinterested, and information is scanty at best?

It is mystifying … utterly mystifying.

Related reading:

1. Raw Sex: Is it ever OK?

2. Can we blame Anti-Gay religion for our higher HIV rates?

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Adam4Adam – The Big HIV Lie! 14

Anyone who is gay in the United States, Canada, Europe and South America has heard of or has a profile on some sort of online dating site. It is a sign of the times. You can essentially be whoever you want to be in a matter of minutes by clicking on any one of the myriad dating websites out there and sex nowadays is just minutes away. The most popular gay online dating websites are Adam4adam, Men4now, Manhunt, Gaydar, Black Gay Chat (Bgc) and countless others.
There is, however, an uncomfortable truth that the management of some of these sites would do well to address in order to throw a vestige of honesty into their members’ activities, in as much as it is possible to talk about adult sex sites and honesty in the same breath.
Take the case of Adam4adam (A4a), one of the most popular sites among black gay men. Men post pictures, say who they are, what they look like, what their ‘stats’ are and who they would like to meet. So far so good. But Adam4adam is different from many other sites of the same ilk in that it allows its members to comment on their HIV status, perhaps to encourage disclosure and/or honesty. And therein lies the problem with this particular online dating site and others that allow members open discretion to tell or not to tell.
First the crude numbers: Based on A4a’s own website, Washington DC/Maryland (8,000), New York (10,000) and Georgia (5,000) have a combined total of more than 23,000 gay men almost all of them in the major cities of those states. Even when you factor in multiple profiles (different profiles set up by the same individual), sleeper profiles (profiles located in places that the user is not actually located) and fake ones (used for mischief), you are looking at a conservative figure of 20,000 gay men with profiles based in just those four states alone.
The crude numbers highlight a jarring statistical aberration. According to ChattaBox, NYC has 3 times the rate of new HIV infection rates in the whole of the USA, with 117 infections for every 100,000 New Yorkers. According to the 2006 report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the percentage of HIV/Aids infections among black, Hispanics and whites in NYC was 38.4%, 22.9% and 36.8%. In contrast, the number of profiles on A4a admitting to HIV+ status on December 28 2008 was 25%, 17% and 26% respectively among those ethnic groups.
Yet we know that, with better medication and diminishing stigma around HIV in the West, the number of diagnoses has risen since 2006 especially in the 30-46 age group. In NYC alone, more than 50% of new diagnoses are of black males. The statistics quoted are by no means conclusive but they reflect a clear dissonance between the official statistics and what those looking for sex on online dating websites admit to.
It is a well known fact that so many gay men pad their profiles when relating their body shape, waist and penis sizes. But it is an all together more serious matter when they are given such an easy avenue to lie about their HIV/Aids status. It is thus worth asking whether there is any point in online dating websites keeping the HIV status checkbox since, with or without it, the relevant message is “safe sex at all times.” Other sites such as Men4now and Gaydar don’t have the HIV checkbox but Manhunt does, and like A4a it allows members the option to check “positive”, “negative”, “don’t know” or “no answer” on the HIV question.
The significance of the combined crude statistics and the big lie they reveal is staggering. In December 2008, only 13% of DC A4a members’ profiles admitted to being HIV+. But when you factor in those who checked “Don’t know” and “No answer” the figure jumps to 53% – well in line with official HIV+ statistics from the District of Columbia. In NYC, only 15% of profiles checked HIV+ (against 62% if you factor in the “Don’t Know” and “No Answer”). In Georgia (And the focus here is on the Atlanta Metro area which is where the gay numbers are significant) the HIV+ profiles were 17% (59%) and in Maryland 8% (52%). In these four jurisdictions, A4a has only 13% of members who admitted to being HIV+.
That leaves the obvious and pertinent question: if official projections relating to HIV/Aids infection among men having sex with men in NYC, Washington DC, Atlanta and Maryland are closer to 50% of all gay men, and A4a has only 13% of them, on which online dating sites are the other 37%?