Gay men play safe. That’s the message of a new HIV prevention campaign from AIDS Vancouver that was launched two weeks ago.
Gay men play safe is a statement of fact. It affirms the practices of the majority of gay men at a time when so many men believe that safer sex is no longer common practice in the community. The campaign validates the efforts most gay men are making to prevent the transmission of HIV at a time when media messages portray gay men as apathetic and suffering from condom fatigue.
This campaign, Gay Men Play Safe, also challenges the general public to reconsider its view that gay men are acting irresponsibly and fueling new infections with little regard for their own lives or the lives of others.
It may seem to some a strange way to do HIV prevention. We’re so used to hearing messages that tell us what we’re doing wrong that when we get messages telling us we’re doing something right we doubt them. We question the truth and we look for flaws. Why is it so hard for us to believe that we’re taking care of ourselves? Why is it so hard to believe that we’re keeping it safe?
After all it was our efforts, the efforts of gay men, that brought down infection rates in the early days of HIV. Gay men went from not using condoms to using condoms at an incredible rate. Safer sex practices were created, learned, exchanged, and supported within the gay community in ways that demonstrated gay men’s commitment to their own health and the health of their sexual partners.
Most studies show that between 75 and 85 percent of gay men are consistent in their safer sex efforts. The Sex Now Survey showed that 99 percent of men are aware and concerned about the continuing threat to health posed by HIV. At the same time, other surveys show that most gay men don’t believe that their peers are using condoms. This is a perception in our community that needs to be changed.
It needs to be changed simply because it’s not the truth. And it’s important for us to know the truth. Especially when it’s good news.
But knowing this truth also has an HIV prevention effect. The more men are aware that this community plays safe the more it creates an expectation of safer sex. HIV prevention is a community effort and that effort continues. In the end, HIV prevention can’t be dependent on how much the government spends. It will always depend on the actions of each and every one of us.
So, thanks for keeping it safe.