The World Health Organization Is Perpetuating Gay Stereotypes

The World Health Organization Is Perpetuating Gay Stereotypes

By Patrick McAleenan, originally published on The Telegraph

The World Health Organisation has recommended that all gay men take antiretroviral drugs to stop the spread of HIV, but surely education – not more drugs – is the answer.

Anything else they’d like us to take responsibility for? Famine in Africa? Unemployment statistics? Binge drinking in Magaluf?

Being gay can often feel like the world is against you, and yet again the planet’s HIV epidemic is being firmly placed on our shoulders. I’m talking about the news that the World Health Organisation has announced for the first time that men who have sex with men should take antiretroviral drugs, in a bid to try and contain the growing rates of HIV in gay communities around the world. That’s all men who have sex with men. No mention of men who have sex with women. Are they all suddenly having safe sex?

In guidelines published last Friday, the WHO said that it “strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection”. Gottfried Hirnschall, the head of WHO’s HIV department, said that infection rates among homosexual men are increasing again, 33 years after the epidemic first hit. According to the report, men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to have HIV than the general population.

I’m not arguing with those statistics, but I do believe it’s important to challenge the constant message that binds all gay men to the rising HIV epidemic. Worryingly, this latest recommendation does nothing to dispel the myth that all gay men are promiscuous, irresponsible or ignorant and regularly play Russian roulette with their sexual health.

Hirnschall highlighted the fact that HIV doesn’t hold as much fear to a younger generation because of the availability of effective drugs to live with the condition, but are more drugs really the answer? Doesn’t the fact that people have become complacent about HIV imply that what we really need is to address is the severe lack of education around contracting it and other STDs, rather than funding and promoting yet another expensive treatment?

This education needs to start with young people, both gay and straight. However, we first have to address the fact that many adults believe that it is inappropriate to talk to young people about sex in full and frank detail, out of fear that doing so will encourage them to indulge in risky behaviours. In many situations, these attitudes are based on moral or religious views rather than any real evidence, and as a result have severely limited HIV and AIDS education in the UK. It is simply wrong to assume that talking to young people about safer sex and the importance of using condoms leads to an increase in sexual activity.

Young people, gay and straight, are having sex, and they are experimenting with drugs and alcohol, just as their parents did. It’s a fact that we, and especially parents, shouldn’t ignore. Some experiment more than others, some play it very safe. Some experiment with behaviour that some adults would view as “immoral”. We of course need to protect children from potential harm, but in teaching them about sex we need to ensure we don’t focus on the negatives, the dangers, and reduce it to argument about what’s moral or immoral.

There is still an assumption among many in our society, which is being passed on to the younger generation, that indulging in “immoral” sex and illegal drug use will lead to HIV infection. This simply perpetuates the stigmatization of people who are living with HIV, and risks implying that anyone who has HIV is therefore involved in “immoral” activities, and has got what was coming to them.

The WHO guidelines feel like a step backwards, promoting a negative gay stereotype that I thought we were moving away from. Let’s be clear: a more relaxed attitude to HIV is not exclusive to the gay community. It’s an attitude that’s become prevalent across all communities. The report will encourage straight people to believe that HIV is simply a gay problem, and that they themselves are off the hook.

I am not against antiretroviral drugs where they are needed. The report correctly highlights that antiretroviral drug use can reduce the chance of passing on HIV by up to 92 per cent. However, other studies tell us that, when used correctly, a condom is about 98 per cent effective. Shouldn’t we be focusing our efforts on educating people to use condoms (which are cheaper than drugs and side-effect free) instead?

A fraction of the cost of investing in vast amounts of antiretroviral drugs would go a long way to creating a programme that educates us all – gay and straight – about responsible sexual health.

Instead, the WHO appears to have created a situation with a very clear winner (drugs companies) and a very clear loser (gay men).

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24 Comments

  1. Absalom
    July 24, 05:24 Reply

    Thank you, Patrick McAleenan, I promise to marry you!

  2. Rapu'm
    July 24, 05:48 Reply

    They should do and get the cure for this thing already.

  3. chestnut
    July 24, 06:45 Reply

    I’ve always wondered at d logic behind dis reasoning. Do they mean that there’s a certain substance/hormone/neurotransmitter in men,that wen combined with that of another man,creates the HIvirus(irrespective of both men’s previous HIV status)? Like,I know many straight couples,men and women,who are HIV positive. Ok,maybe their recommendation is based off of d fact that gay men who hav actual intercourse are restricted to anal sex(since they hav no other orifice to stick it to), and d rectum is more easily torn than d vagina? But d vagina can hav tears too,no? Shouldn’t that mean that they would recommend d same PrEP for sexually active straight women as well?
    Saying ALL gay men should undertake PrEP is just stupid cos not all gay men hav d same sexual practices. If I have sex (with proper use of a condom) only once a year, should I still have to swallow “Truvada” everyday,just becos of my sexual orientation, as opposed to a straight man who has unprotected sex with 78 random chicks in 6 months?
    WHO should be promoting education of safe sex practices.ppl make it sound like if u’re born gay, d HIV is automatically in ur DNA right from birth. I’m giving them d “side-eye” for this one.

  4. pinkpanthertb
    July 24, 07:53 Reply

    The part where the writer said… ‘Anything else they’d like us to take responsibility for? Famine in Africa? Unemployment statistics? Binge drinking in Magaluf?’
    LMAO! Nice!

    • chestnut
      July 24, 08:17 Reply

      I swear! I’m beginning to feel like we’re GoodLuck Jonathan; everything is blamed on him: if there’s a bomb blast in abuja,#BlameGEJ; if there’s traffic in Lagos, #BlameGEJ; if P-square breaks up, #BlameGEJ, if Tonto Dikeh releases a crap album nko? #BlameGEJ.

  5. Chizzie
    July 24, 09:25 Reply

    let’s face it, gay guys are promiscuous especially the ‘youngies’ like myself. The week is barely over and I’ve had my fair share of lovers with more booked for the weekend (could be me acting out Post breakup trauma, Yes it has finally happened) .

    On a more serious note, you are right; popping pills daily doesn’t solve the problem. Education and sensitization seems more effective. I remember as a child in the 90s, constantly being bombarded by HIV infomercials, jingles and ad campaigns, even radio programs began with a stern warning to go get tested, this was before the advent of ART when HIV was more or less a death sentence. Now in the 21st century, and with HIV/AIDS prognosis improving remarkably, the general population is layed back hence the gradual increase in HIV rates. As gay guys we have to take the time every now and then to acquire information abt HIV and I don’t mean taking a class or anything, i mean more of googling from time to time, and making inquiries how ever little. because when the chips are down we as gay guys are unfortunately most profoundly affected by this dreaded virus.

    Continue to be a darlene Pinky and leave this comment undeleted. *Big Kiss*

    • Rapu'm
      July 24, 09:32 Reply

      Hey Chizzie, welcome back. I want to quarrel with what you said about gay guys being promisucous. You seem to imply that ALL gay guys are promiscuous, but that’s not true. Well, I’m not promiscuous, and I have friends who are gay and are not promiscuous.

      • chestnut
        July 24, 11:24 Reply

        Wait o! Y’all didn’t see d part where chizzie said he’s broken up with his bf? D bf he’s always intimidating everyone here with? D bf that rides a dazzling white unicorn and carries a sword made of pure silver and a shield of gold? Hian! Wonders shall never end ooooo! *where’s my lipton sef*

    • Colossus
      July 24, 10:17 Reply

      On a more serious note? And here i was thinking the first paragraph was serious

  6. Absalom
    July 24, 12:11 Reply

    The question, Rapu’m is how do you define “promiscuity”? Having many sexual partners? Good. Is it a bad thing? No. Does the term even have any legitimate grounds to exist and have a say over how someone lives his life? No. Is it only gays that are promiscuous? Hell no. So what is the WHO blabbing about? I’ll spell it: N-O-N-S-E-N-S-E.

    To be fair to the WHO though, their fears of the scourge may not be totally unfounded. I like to think that the fear of unwanted pregnancy (for example) may encourage MSWs to be more careful. ..but I don’t know this for certain; I’m neither an MSW nor a doctor in sexual health. But with us MSMs it’s easy to see how we can slip into complacency about safer sex. I always have condoms in my bag everywhere I go. On hookups, when the main show is about to begin, I always pause a minute to see if the guy will make what I call “the condom move”. 8 times out of 10, he doesn’t and he’s giving me the look of “Err….maybe we could just…” (I’m mischievous like that)

    So yes, there’s a lot of complacency among MSMs with safer sex. Maybe among MSWs, it’s just as bad. But bottomline is: the WHO’s campaign is totally off the mark. Education is key not popping pills, least of all asking only gay to do that.

  7. Mart
    July 24, 13:28 Reply

    For a start, all you we-already-love-him commentators here should try creating faux profiles on the hook-up sites you already belong and claim to be positive. It would surprise you how many of the people you know are HIV+ but have profiles that say HIV-. And while you’re at that, the next time you go for a sleep-over, you might want to snoop around and see how many ART vials you’ll discover in the house of someone you will be sulking his dick. These are just my personal elimination processes with guys I hook up with, y’all might want to try that. And good luck with your discovery. I maintain that the position of WHO on gay men is not ill-advised. I really don’t see the basis for this outburst against the WHO and their proscription about gay men and ART. Though this writer has a point with his view on sensitisation especially with the younger generation, if he knew anything about the rate of sexual recklessness with gay men he would know the rest of his super story has no case.

    • pinkpanthertb
      July 24, 13:42 Reply

      So Mart, all HIV+ gay men must have ART vials lying around waiting for a snooping you to discover, ei?

      • Mart
        July 24, 14:55 Reply

        No one keep ART vials around waiting for you to discover. You have to be artful yourself. Just saying that you likely have slept with so many HIV+ folks who made you believe they’re negative. Key word, ‘so many.’

    • Lothario
      July 24, 13:57 Reply

      This is beyond me. So you go to get laid, first thing you do is check the medicine cabinet….Na wa o! Lol…..

    • KingBey
      July 25, 23:25 Reply

      Thank you Mart….truth is always bitter but it must be told. I have that profile your talking about and you need to see the number of guys inboxing me about how they are +ve, how they are in same boat but can’t afford to disclose it to anyone….even to their BFs….MANY….the messages are still streaming in as am typing now….from supposedly fresh dudes. So the WHO is right…we are the worst hit….am not even talking about the numerous other STIs apart from HIV which guys carry around these days….HPV, Hepatitis B, Chylamida, Gonorreah to mention but a few….some of them like HPV, condom use will not even save you from contacting it….so you see, it is that bad

      • Mart
        July 26, 00:19 Reply

        Tell them! Cos I find a lot of comments here are made out of darn shallow-mindedness with no reflection whatsoever on what a person’s point is. Sad thing is people lamenting gay stereotype when their comments here are gay stereotype flashcards

  8. JustJames
    July 24, 14:33 Reply

    Honestly I don’t see what the fuss is about. How many of you don’t know having sex without protection is risky. How many of you still do it anyways. And whether you like it or not gay men are more at risk in getting HIV. Add bisexuals to the equation and what do you get??

    Straight people might be promiscuous and all but seriously people if we don’t lie to ourselves you’d know this drug thing isn’t ill advice or a way of stereotyping or judgemental. We are the most vulnerable when it comes to acquiring the virus so why not make the vulnerable people stronger? I think that’s what WHO is doing… not pointing fingers.

    • Mart
      July 24, 15:25 Reply

      How I love comments coming from the head, like this one, unlike those that come from the anus.

      • Colossus
        July 24, 15:39 Reply

        Well we can’t help it. Seeing as we are all wired to love the anus

  9. enkayced
    July 26, 08:31 Reply

    The one thing I noticed about all this brouhaha is that Chizzie’s Mechanic boyfriend has dumped him!!!
    Moving on to more important ish, If you wanna be fucking without condoms, get a boyfriend who wants to do same, go for a Widal test + HIV test + VDRL test then remain faithful to yourselves.
    It worked for me for 2 years when I was in school and in a relationship and I have no regrets.
    Anything outside that, Use a Condom.

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