Gay, Bisexual Men Must Make Greater Effort To Prevent HIV Spread, Seattle ‘Manifesto’ Says
Men who have sex with men need to take more responsibility and make greater efforts to stop the spread of HIV, according to a "strongly worded 'manifesto'" released on Tuesday by a task force of gay community leaders and health workers in King County, Wash., the Seattle Times reports (King, Seattle Times, 10/8). The number of HIV infections diagnosed among Seattle-area MSM who attended public health clinics increased 40% from 2001 to 2002, according to public health officials. If the trend continues, officials predict that the number of new infections could increase by another 60% in 2003. About 85% of the HIV/AIDS cases in King County are among MSM (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/6). The document, titled "A Community Manifesto: A New Response to HIV and STDs," notes the increases, saying, "These rates show we have stopped doing the things that protect us and our sex partners from needless infections." The document calls on MSM to be "accountable" to themselves, their sex partners and their community, calling unprotected sex outside of a monogamous relationship "unacceptable," according to the Times. The manifesto encourages condom use, disclosure of HIV status to sex partners and avoidance of drugs and alcohol before making decisions about sex. In addition, the document encourages health officials to "lead the way" in preventing HIV infection by providing current information on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The 40-member task force responsible for the manifesto comprises HIV prevention workers, AIDS service organization representatives, public health officials and gay community advocates. The group hopes thousands of MSM in King County will sign the manifesto.
Group Expects Controversy
The task force said that it "expects controversy" over the manifesto's suggestions, which are a "departure from the usual statistics-filled warnings from public health officials," according to the Times. "It's a living document and we want the community to give us feedback," Quentin Welch, a task-force member and longtime HIV prevention advocate, said. Some MSM who were not on the task force "doubted" that the manifesto would change behavior, according to the Times. An unnamed 23-year-old HIV-negative gay man who said that he occasionally engages in high-risk sexual behavior, said, "This manifesto is a hell of a lot of preaching that would do nothing but alienate the social services sector from the clientele that they are targeting," adding, "It does not invite change, it invites finger-pointing and judgment." Bill Krutch, a task-force member and University of Washington research coordinator, said that he "hope[s]" the manifesto is criticized because "[j]ust talking about these issues, getting them on the table, is a huge intervention in itself" (Seattle Times, 10/8).