A generation ago, AIDS was decimating the gay population. Now it’s back.
“HIV is clobbering the gay community,” says Robert Carr, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations.
“A new generation has grown up that doesn’t remember the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. People don’t see their friends dying like they did then. And they’ve become complacent because HIV isn’t a death sentence any more.”
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There’s one obvious reason for the high infection rates: HIV spreads more easily through anal sex than through vaginal sex.
“(Gay men) here often get the virus while having drug-induced sex,” says Mikey, an HIV-positive AIDS outreach worker in Kuala Lumpur. Multiple sex partners further increase the risk of infection.
And in many countries, sex between men remains a taboo. HIV awareness campaigns target straight people, while gay men don’t realize they can get infected.
“Societies have to be honest about the fact that they have gay people,” says Carr.
“And in Western countries there are now gay men who aren’t white and middle-class. HIV is increasing among men that weren’t part of our countries 20 years ago.”