Thursday, 25 February 2010

.......................Why 18 - 25 year olds are the new HIV spikers................

.........................Currently the fastest growing number of new HIV infections are occurring in the 18-25 year age group.

Many HIV and Gay Men's Health Organisations are wringing their hands and saying "How can this be?"
I have a proposition - they are generation that have never known the fear of a community specific pandemic outbreak - AND - they are desensitised to fear.

Let's look at THEN AND NOW............


Have a look at this Aussie ad from the 80's about HIV in Australia......

The Grim Reaper bowling down children and their parents is TERRIFYING when you are a 9 year old. There was another one that had a straight couple about to do the nasty and it was about sharing needles and there was a bed made of syringes - and a sheet billowing over it and the lovers went to lie down on it. Every time I would sit there inwardly screaming at the television "Don't lie down there - it's a bed of NEEDLES !!!" - and found that EQUALLY as terrifying.

The terrifying part was being a young child at the beginning of a Pandemic that - worldwide - would kill MILLIONS of people.

The truly terrifying part was later being a young gay man trying to explore my sexuality in an age where a virus WOULD kill me if I caught - in the early 90's the HIV drugs were dreadful. People who survived were simply blessed with a strong constitution - or a biochemistry that was able to stave off the virus until the next generation of drugs could come along.

The print ads of the time all contained pictures of people riddled with Karposi's Sarcoma - or chronic lypo-atrophia resembling a refugee from Auschwitz - or young men hooked to respirators because their lungs had simply stopped working and their families could not bear turning the machines off.


Here is a recent Safe Sex ad from an Australian gay paper.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm - not really terrifying huh? Why? Coz pictures of a person suffering from Cocktail Syndrome are never used in safe sex ads anymore. We need to see.....
  • a person forced to wear adult diapers from the chronic diarrhea
  • someone in hospital hooked to an IV for dehydration from constant vomiting
  • the person being buried in a cemetery because their liver gave out from drug toxicity and they were not allowed a transplant because of their virus.
Now, here's the real problem with getting younger people to seriously consider the consequences of barebacking. We have a generation of younger people who - gay or straight - have never known the fear like I did as a child.

Other things they have never had to do............
  • They never had their ENTIRE social matrix of friends die within MONTHS of each other from a virus that the medical community did not understand.
  • They have never had to wipe the arse of a friend who is no longer able to clean or bathe themselves.
  • They have never had to see the footage of children in hospital wards dying as the camera panned over them because their infant bodies had nothing to draw upon.
And here is why we can't scare them into compliance......
  • The Saw Movies
  • Hostel
  • Extreme sports - if you risk your life by climbing the side of a cliff with no safety equipment - a small piece of latex does not play into your thinking
  • Age of Terror - 3000 people died through the actions of a few - they think "If they can die like that I'm going to enjoy my life right NOW".
  • Graphic advertisements for drink driving and tobacco that would NEVER have been shown on television 20 years ago - actually - they wouldn't have been shown in a cinema without an 'R' rating.
So how do we get these kids to use protection? I have no clue - but I **do** know that pictures of hot men do not increase the odds of safer sex practices. It's time to go back to realism. No matter how much it hurts us who were there at the beginning.

I lost the first man I ever loved to Non-Hodgkins Lymphnoma due to his depleted immune system. I moved to be in the same city as him because I did not know how much time he had. When I saw him he had gone from a stunningly handsome man of 78kgs (171lbs) - to a shell of 40kgs (88lbs). When he died back in his home town - I was unable to go to the funeral because I could not afford the air fare. This is a pain that the young gay men of today will not know.

THAT is why they do not use condoms.
That - and they genuinely believe that HIV no longer kills people because we LERV to tell people how fantastic the modern meds are.

We must convince them otherwise.

Again - I neither disapprove or approve of barebacking - I **DO** however, approve of people knowing all the facts before they choose a course of action - and we are not giving the current generation of young gay men all the facts.

We are aiding their uninformed decision making.

We should be ashamed.


Anonymous said...

I think the message needs to change to one of the economic impact. In the US where we do not have universal healthcare, meds are $900 per month per pill. So if you need 3 meds it's $2700 a month. If you can take the combo pills, they are about $1500. Then most of the meds will/can cause an increase in sugar levels and cholesterol so more meds to take. Even with insurance, meds will still cost you $500 and then there's the cost of doctor visits and blood tests ($300). The way things are going here, HIV+ people will not be insurable.

Young people may not understand death but they know money.

The Mutant said...

I know this might sound like another soft approach but perhaps focusing on the social aspect might help?

Every gay bar has safe-sex campaigns in the toilets and many, even non-sex venues, offer free condoms and lube, that's a great start.

But to frighten off todays kids perhaps we should show them how hard it would become for them to do all the things they used to do before their positive status?

Friends that leave, trouble finding a boyfriend or playmate and such.

the only problem I have with this is that it encourages a negative stigma from the wider community - that is not the ultimate aim at all.

I'm trying to convey what I see often with my positive friends, where they end up almost tearing themselves in two, wanting to talk to a cute guy in a bar, but fearing retribution when it comes time to have 'that discussion'.

If a generation has no fear of death - show them something worse. Very few kids in that age bracket would be able to handle being socially hobbled I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Very good post.

Wesley said...

Good writing Damien. I couldn't agree more. Some serious, hard-hitting PSA's would get the message across a lot better than a fucking ad with two men making out.

Stan said...

I totally agree with you on this issue. As some who watched my partner waste away and deteriorate into someone I hardly even recognized physically or mentally there's got to be a way of convincing young folks of the horrors of HIV AIDS. Beleive me it's not a pretty sight or pleasant job to take care of a patient dying a slow death right before your eyes.

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Kyle Leach said...

Damien, bravo! That was a terrific piece with perfect, indisputable points. Couldn't agree with you more.

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