Practice Safe Sex: We’re Not All That Invincible

Responsible Practices are Necessary with HIV Infections on the Rise


Published: January 31, 2008

With mention of the term “safe sex,” we are instantly reminded of memories of falling asleep in a useless health class in the beginning of high school. But there is reason to recall the AIDS video that you never paid attention to. Promiscuity and unsafe sex practices among young gay men create a Petri dish-like environment among the gay community for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and the newly discovered MRSA (or staph infection) that is currently having high outbreak rates in gay communities in large cities in the United States.

As much as we have been desensitized to safe sex teachings and public service announcements, it’s important to take notice of them now because of recent findings on sexually transmitted diseases.

If I were reading this article, I would roll my eyes, because I have heard the preaching so many times before. And I know the sermon that is coming: if freshmen health class in high school taught me anything, it’s that if you are not going to be celibate, then wearing a condom is an absolute necessity. I am so used to it that whenever I experience a safe sex message, I cringe.

Not only are HIV infections rising among young gay men, but now there is also the threat of MRSA, a staph infection immune to antibiotics that attacks the skin and can be transmitted through unprotected sex or bodily contact.

Fordham College at Lincoln Center’s campus is notorious for its gay male population—an irony, considering the Catholic roots of the institution and the views that the church holds on the homosexual lifestyle (take, for example, the Vatican’s demonization of same-sex marriage).

Health crises among the younger gay population are growing more than ever in recent years. According to a New York Times article, HIV infections have dropped overall, but have risen among young gay men. Why is this happening? Twenty years after the birth of the AIDS epidemic among the gay community, are we, as young gay men, desensitized to the fear, scars and death that swept our very community so few years ago?

Testing positive for HIV is no longer a death sentence. But there is a saying that goes, “Some things are worse than death,” such as lifelong, daily intake of tens of pills that must make it through the digestive system, depression, diarrhea and other side effects of medications, including sores on the body. There is also the reality that this is one disease that is presently medically impossible to beat, with no sign of a cure in sight. This is not to mention the stigma among peers as being “positive,” which can make dating that much more impossible than it already is.

With all the horrors that HIV and AIDS entail, why is it that some men are so nonchalant about their sexual practices as though they have nothing to worry about? There is an entire sexual fetish focused on unprotected, or “raw,” sex with strangers known as “barebacking,” evidenced by personal ads on gay dating Web sites and reiterated by the blog, “Confessions of a Bareback Top” ( The blog tagline advertises the anonymous writer as “a SAFE ONLY top on many Web sites…but secretly…a raw top.” The controversial blog documents his many sexual experiences of having sex with men he meets online that agree (and are sometimes forced) to have unsafe sex with him.

Perhaps the reason many are so detached from the dangers of unprotected sex is that we did not witness the terror that the first generation of infected gay men did, including burying their friends, neighbors, coworkers, boyfriends and partners. With death off the table, some say, “What are we to be afraid of?”

We are invincible after all, right?