by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
It should be your mantra. It should be something you are doing every time you have sex - oral, anal, or otherwise. 'Wear a fucking condom' should be a way of life, not something you do every now and then. Billions of dollars have been spent on outreach, education, and more, since the years that AIDS took its first victim. Has it worked?
Dave Purdy recently wrote an interesting piece for the Washington Blade in which he suggests that we, as a society, should adjust our attitude on what constitutes safe sex.
THE CUDDLE GENE
'I remember a study a few years ago that concluded a human being's strongest desire is not for sex or food or water,' wrote Purdy. 'It is for the feeling after having sex. The researchers call this the 'cuddle gene.'
The cuddle gene is so strong many times it can scare people out of bed after sex.
'Think about that - human beings actually deciding not to satisfy their strongest urge,' he said. 'Rather than cuddle, they prefer to leave right away after sex. I sometimes call it 'the walk of shame.' Why? Because if you choose to stay and cuddle, you could face the potential for a longer-term relationship. Human behavior sometimes may be odd, but it's predictable.'
Human behavior is the strongest determinant in spreading or not spreading HIV. Purdy breaks this down to 'first, sex is about choices, and second, if you want safer sex, you'll need to consider, then discuss, using a condom.'
The first hurdle, according to Purdy, is that condoms are unnatural. That messaging obviously doesn't fall into place with what most mainstream AIDS activists would say. Purdy acknowledges this, saying, 'I'm sure my fellow AIDS activists are already starting to cringe, but it's the truth.'
Here are some interesting factoids about condoms:
o Durex, the No. 1 brand worldwide, owns about 15 percent of the global market.
o Trojan, the most popular brand in the United States, captures 69 percent of the domestic market.
o There's no clear trend in sales. One year, condom sales are up; another year, they're down. Many blame the economy while others insist 'safe sex' is a term of the past.
o Some studies report straight people use condoms more frequently than Gay people; other studies claim the opposite. Still another study suggests that minorities in the United States tend to use condoms more often than white people.
'BARE' IS BACK
'The fact is when you talk about condoms the discussion is never cut-and-dried,' declared Purdy. 'If we're going to be truthful, there has to be flexibility. Nothing prevents HIV 100 percent of the time, except - dare I say it? - abstinence.'
Purdy says he does not advocate abstinence because he believes that can lead to mental health issues.
And he points out that 'bareback' sex - the term for not wearing a condom - no longer is a dirty word.
'Today, people are having sex without condoms and loving it,' says Purdy. 'It is the new freedom revolution. In some circles, being HIV positive is considered en vogue; others say if both partners are HIV positive, why not have condom-less sex?'
According to Purdy, this attitude cannot be ignored, but it can be adjusted.
'Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly,' reports the Centers for Disease Control, 'are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.'
Purdy wonders, 'At one time, the CDC gave a percentage, but no longer. Why?'
It is important to emphasize that condoms offer some protection from STDs other than HIV, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia.
'Both the CDC and the AIDS community urge condom use in light of an important fact: HIV prevention in the United States is a complete failure,' alleges Purdy.
JUST SAY 'FUK!T'
'One of the most brilliant safer-sex campaigns I have seen in my 25 years trying to do my part to help end the AIDS epidemic is right here in Washington, D.C.,' he said. 'It is called the FUK!T Campaign. The easy-to-open package contains a condom, lube, and a three-step instruction card.'
Seattle has a FUK!T campaign too: Go to www.seafukits.org.
Unfortunately, Purdy points out, there is no way a campaign like that can attract federal funding.
'That's blocked in part by the Helms Amendment, which prohibits using federal tax dollars for AIDS education or for materials that 'promote or encourage, directly or indirectly, homosexual activities,' he says. 'Let me be clear on one point: If we are going to win the war against AIDS, we must do away with the Helms Amendment.'
A MODEST SUGGESTION
Although Purdy doesn't offer any concrete solutions as to exactly what needs to be done next, I think many of us can agree that the failed approach to getting men - Gay and straight - to wear condoms during sex has to be updated. A new approach is needed. And Purdy does have a suggestion.
'Let's imagine just for a moment that you opted to satisfy your urge to cuddle,' he says. 'Chances are that you would pass the threshold of caring for the person enough to choose using a condom.
'And with more cuddling, perhaps the world would be a better place.'
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