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September 20th, 2010

Condoms & Bareback Sex at Gay Summit

While “gay men’s health” as a concept — aging, mental health, relationships, physical fitness — tried mightily to get some respect at the 2010 Gay Men’s Health Summit in Ft Lauderdale, HIV continued to dominate much of the workshops and discussions.

playsafeThe evergreen issues of condom fatigue and barebacking managed to vex workshop leaders with a stubborn dilemma: how do you interest gay men in condoms when so many have already opted for sero-sorting, barebacking, and risk reduction techniques?

In this video blog entry of “My Fabulous Disease,” I met with two sets of workshop facilitators directly after they led group sessions on condoms, casual sex, and safer sex techniques.

You’ll meet “Middle,” a Nashville HIV advocate who intended to facilitate a group of men using condoms for casual sex — and found himself with a room full of barebackers.

Next, Jacques and Robert of “M” Ft Lauderdale, a program of Broward House, discuss focusing their efforts on gay men ages 18-30, because older gay men tend to be less teachable when it comes to safer sex.

TonyPOZAnd then, interestingly and ironically, I sat down with the original bareback poster boy, Tony Valenzuela, who famously rode naked astride a horse on the cover of POZ Magazine for a 1998 article on barebacking. Tony has surprisingly little ill feelings about the judgment and anger aimed in his direction when he honestly discussed his preference for unprotected sex. Instead, he applauds men who use condoms and believes responsibility is key. He sums up his views in these carefully chosen words: “Condoms are a sacrifice.”

Has the dominance of condoms as a primary safe sex tool passed its prime? Are there two sexual societies: negative men using condoms (most of the time), and positive gay men who are less inclined to do so? How important is sero-sorting (limiting sex partners to those who share your status) to the equation?

Thanks for watching. I look forward to your responses!

Mark

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One Response to “Condoms & Bareback Sex at Gay Summit”

  1. Bill K. Says:

    September 20th, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Great piece, Mark! I liked what Middle said about the impacts of our choices on the community. I definitely think the argument about “personal choices” breaks down when we look at sexual behavior in places like bathhouses and resorts. Seeing others not using condoms can have catastrophic effects on people who may be less experienced and knowledgeable.

    I recently had a guy online tell me he was extremely afraid of contracting HIV. We wrote back and forth about it… a week later, he propositioned me to have bareback sex with him, and when I wrote him back to say that wasn’t something I was open to, he dropped me. I thought that was amazing; his “fear of HIV” thing seems to have been a way to find a man who was negative, and once he thought he had my trust, he tried to lure me into unsafe behavior. That’s how I saw it, anyway. Left me feeling really icky.

    (Thanks, Bill. I thought Middle had terrific insight, including his admission that maybe someday “they’ll wear me down” when it comes to his safe sex standards. That was a startling, sad, and honest moment to me. — Mark)

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