But on the eve of United Nations World AIDS Day, a disturbing statistical fact has emerged in this country: The number of newly infected teens and young adults is suddenly on the rise.
And the question is, why?
But there has been a recent, troubling spike in new infections among gay men, young and old alike. According to the CDC, the rate of new cases of HIV infection linked to male-male sex held steady at around 16,000 cases between 2001-2004, then suddenly jumped to 18,296 in 2005.
"In gay magazines, you now see [ads with] buff, handsome men climbing mountains, with some kind of quote about how 'I'm not letting HIV get in my way,'" Johnston said. "It sends the message that you, too, can be hot, buff and handsome, even with HIV."
Chono-Helsley agreed. "It's always these bright, healthy vibrant young men in these ads," she said. That could spur young gay men to relax their guard and take more risks, thinking that if they do contract HIV, "I only have to take a pill," she said.
The reality of living with HIV in America is much different, however, even when medication is working. According to Johnston, the side effects of powerful HIV-suppressing drug cocktails include fat redistribution (including unsightly "humps"), insulin resistance, higher cholesterol, increased risks for heart disease, and dangerous liver toxicities.
There's also the fear that, someday, HIV will develop mutations that render these drugs useless, triggering the re-emergence of AIDS, she said.
Did you catch that? "In gay magazines, you now see [ads with] buff, handsome men climbing mountains." Do sites such as manhunt.net, gay.com, and others basically do the same thing? Are these sites helping AIDS spread?
How many times have you logged out of MySpace and seen an advertisement for manhunt.net? When you visit these sites, you’ll find pictures of naked men wanting nothing more than a “hookup.” These sites would not survive if people didn’t use them. What does this say about the value sexual relations told in our society today? How do we change it to help our community?