A Former Practitioner of Sexual Roulette
I just finished reading your latest piece in the New Times ("Sexual Roulette," Jay Cheshes, May 27) and all I can say is Wow! You really chose a topic loaded with political and social overtones that are being actively debated in the gay community and elsewhere.
The aspects of the piece that I find most satisfying are the blatant honesty with which it approaches the subject, the superb research, and the openness with which you were able to write the story. Not only did I not think portions were too graphic, but I felt the descriptions were chosen and written with class and used the vernacular in a meaningful way, which made the piece come alive for the reader.
Much of what was written about are situations I personally experienced back in the '60s and '70s, and I've always considered myself blessed and extremely lucky not to become HIV-positive. It seems as if the start of our liberation gave way to a huge amount of repressed anger and frustration, which took the form of promiscuous and risky sexual activity.
Personally, I lost dozens of friends and acquaintances to the disease and fully understand what survivor guilt feels like. But having seen the devastation this plague has wrought on my community and on so many of the people I loved, I find it impossible to support the feelings so many gay men have today regarding their indulgence in risky sexual practices while using the protease inhibitors as an excuse.
I personally want to thank the writer for writing such a beautiful and intelligently presented article on a subject that is so very close to my heart.
Michael (last name withheld)
Exactly Who Practices Sexual Roulette?
I read with great interest the article "Sexual Roulette" and would like to comment about references to the PWA [People With Aids] Coalition of Broward County.
First, the oddly worded phrase that PWAC does not openly endorse barebacking: It is like asking when someone stopped beating his lover. We endorse disclosure as part of an overall prevention program that includes everything from condom use to, I suppose, abstinence, depending on personal preference. The best we can do is to educate people to the risks involved with different kinds of sexual behavior. As such, articles such as "Sexual Roulette" play a valuable role.
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Second, I refer to the unfounded statement that "more and more of [our] members... are exploring unprotected sex." I would like to know how Mr. Cheshes substantiates that statement, since we have never done a study of the sexual practices of our members, and in any case, our membership list is not publicly available. Although our Newsline is distributed to around 4000 people monthly, our actual membership core is only a few hundred, mostly long-term survivors who, I suspect, made up their minds on this issue long ago. Many of the members that I know personally are too sick either with AIDS or with drug side effects to be engaging in much of anything.
The important point, as your article states, is that people (both gay and straight) are engaging in high-risk sexual behavior. They need to know without a doubt what they are risking. I receive anecdotal evidence all the time of young men turning up at clinics with all the old diseases of AIDS in full force. The signs are ominous, and we at the PWA Coalition intend to keep the doors open to educate people about safer sex and to be there for them without judgment if the plague returns in full force.
President, PWAC of Broward County
Cheshes responds: PWAC is the largest local organization of people with AIDS. It is reasonable to infer that if more and more HIV-positive men are exploring unprotected sex, then more and more members of PWAC are as well. The article does not state that the majority of the membership is practicing unprotected sex, only that that behavior is increasingly popular among HIV-positive men, including three of the men mentioned in the piece, who are members of