I always find it amusing that you can say one thing one day, and then be reading it in the newspaper the next 🙂 Yesterday, I chatted with Linda Stewart Ball from the Dallas Morning News about the increase in HIV infections that have occured in the Collin and Denton county areas. Today, there are some of my words.
It appears that a preliminary report was released earlier this week that indicated that HIV infections had increased in Collin County about 60 percent in 2005. A similar increased was shown to have occured in Denton County as well.
Another person interviewed was Dr. Ron Aldridge, executive director of AIDS Services of North Texas, who expressed a similar thought to me – and a common belief (in my view) – that with the increase of availability of antiretroviral therapy drugs, which “treats” HIV, too many people erroneously believe that HIV is not an issue anymore.
My contribution to the report related to the age group that showed the largest increase (between 30 and 39) was:
“It's surprising that it's in that age group,” said James Nunn, 37, who founded Frisco Pride, a gay social and support group. He wondered how many of the people who tested positive were married and don't consider themselves gay because they have only occasionally slept with a man.
As I said to Linda, for many people in that age group, we lived through the time when HIV/AIDS was most prevalent, and many of us saw how it affected friends and our community, so I was baffled why gay men in this age group would have such a steady increase, then it became clear that maybe the increases were not amongst gay men, but this other category of “men who have sex with men.” Some people believe that if you are a guy that has sex with another guy, then your gay. I disagree. A number of men experience sex with another man, but still identify as heterosexual. A recent “phenomena” that supports this is African-American men who were “on the down low” (a term used for men who discreetly have sex with other men while in sexual relationships with women). Perhaps the practice of this is becoming more prevalent amongst white men.
Another factor which I discussed, was the reality that there are also a number of men who are in this age group who have married, and possibly had children, who were conditioned to this lifestyle based on societal expectations. These men are now realizing their true sexuality and experimenting, and in some cases, are probably doing so in an unsafe manner. These men didn't “live” through the first stages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, so probably weren't exposed to a lot of the information or education that was made available, especially on how to reduce risks. This is made more likely given that the second largest increase in infections were in the 40-49 age group.
Of course there are gay men out there who are in these age groups who actively seek HIV positive men to have sex with, in the “hope” that they will get infected, so that may sway some of the figures a little. Still scratching my head on this one.