Friday, May 09, 2008

Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Safer Sex.

The following is from this week's column, Savage Love by Dan Savage. The question the 16 year old gay guy asks is relevent for gay men at any age.

Savage Love
Sexpert Advice

I'm 16 and gay. I recently got into an argument with my parents over whether HIV is spread by saliva or if you can be infected during oral sex. I thought that you were safe kissing and that it's okay to have oral sex, but that you need to use condoms for anal sex. My parents disagree and I found mixed answers searching online. I trust you, though—what do you say?
Good Gay Boy

You trust me, GGB, but your parents probably wouldn't. So I'm going to step aside and let some HIV prevention pros have a crack at your questions. Think of this column as a sex-ed gangbang I've arranged just for you—but, um, don't describe it to your parents that way.

"To be exposed to HIV, you would have to come in contact with someone who is HIV-positive and a fluid—semen, vaginal secretions, blood—that can transmit HIV," says Krishna Stone, assistant director of community relations at Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City. "And there would also need to be a point of entry—unprotected vaginal or anal sex without condoms," that would bring the virus into contact with mucous membranes that could absorb it.

Stone makes a great point: You can't be exposed to HIV unless you're having sex with someone who has HIV. The AIDS virus isn't fire and gay men aren't twigs; it doesn't matter how vigorously you rub us against each other, we're not going to suddenly burst into HIV. If you're having sex—safe sex—with someone who's HIV-negative like you, GGB, you have nothing to worry about on the HIV front. Well, except for your boyfriend's truthfulness and any changes to his HIV status since his last test—which is why you should be having safe sex regardless, even if you think you're both negative.

But let's say you're not with just one guy. Let's say you're running around having sex—safe sex—with random guys (not that I'm saying you should). Some of these guys are likely to be HIV-positive. So are you at risk of contracting HIV when you kiss poz guys?

"Kissing carries no risk of HIV transmission according to the Canadian AIDS Society's HIV transmission guidelines," says Rui Pires, gay men's community education coordinator for the AIDS Committee of Toronto, "[because] saliva doesn't transmit HIV."
So has anyone ever been infected via kissing?

"There has been a documented case of HIV transmitted through 'deep kissing,' [and the infection] occurred because both of those involved had current gum disease and had bleeding gums," says Beau Gratzer, director of HIV/STD prevention at Howard Brown in Chicago. "Generally speaking, blood must be visible in the saliva in order to pose a risk of HIV transmission."

So promise your parents, GGB, that there'll be no deep kissing after you and your boyfriend go get your wisdom teeth pulled together, okay?

What about oral sex? What kind of risks are there when you're blowing guys who could be positive?

"Oral sex is very low risk for transmitting HIV," says Hunter Hargraves, community initiatives coordinator at the STOP AIDS Project in San Francisco. Low risk does not mean no risk—some men have been infected giving head. "But even though oral sex is very low risk for HIV," adds Hargraves, "other STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia can still be transmitted via oral sex," giving and receiving, "and having an STD increases the potential for HIV transmission."

What can you do to minimize the already low risk of contracting HIV when performing oral sex?
"HIV transmission is possible only if you have a cut or abrasion in your mouth or throat through which the virus can enter your bloodstream," says Pires. So don't go down on anyone if you have a cut or abrasion. To avoid creating one, "no flossing or brushing 45 minutes before you go down on somebody," says Hargraves.

You can also minimize your risks, says Howard Brown's Gratzer, "[by] not getting semen/come in your mouth, reducing your number of oral sex partners, and using a [condom] while engaging in oral sex."

I'd like to add to this list: Don't sleep with total sleazefags, don't be a total sleazefag yourself, and don't allow anyone to pressure you into doing anything you don't want to do.

Definitely words to the wise gay man compliments of Dan. He has the pulse on healthy gay sex. These do's and don't's point that the best way to a healthy sex life is by practicing safer sex, and using a condom. Use your imagination, some steamy foreplay, wrap yours and your partners love machine snugly into separate condoms, and have great sex. Dan says so. I say so, therefore, it must be true.

Friday, May 02, 2008

SURVEY SAYS: We're Not As Smart Or As Politically Aware As We Think We Are

Survey shows gays ‘ignorant’ of basic rights issuesMajority of respondents flunk test on U.S. laws
By JOSHUA LYNSEN, Washington Blade May 1, 3:57 PM

Few gay Americans understand their basic rights, according to an analysis released this week.Based on the responses of 768 gays, lesbians and bisexuals to a national poll given in November, the analysis found that most respondents could not correctly answer four questions regarding their state and federal rights.“I think ‘ignorant’ is the right word, unfortunately,” said Pat Egan, an assistant professor of politics at New York University who is gay and helped write the analysis.

The poll by City University of New York’s Hunter College asked whether same-sex marriages were legal in the respondent’s state, if the U.S. Constitution bans same-sex marriage, whether gays can serve openly in the U.S. military and if there’s a federal law barring the firing of workers based on their sexual orientation.Egan said only 38 percent of poll respondents answered all four questions correctly.“On one hand, that doesn’t surprise us,” he said. “On the other, we would have liked to see these numbers a little higher.”

According to the analysis, 94 percent of respondents knew whether same-sex marriage was legal in their state, 78 percent knew the U.S. Constitution does not ban same-sex marriage, 82 percent knew they could not serve openly in the military and 59 percent knew there’s no federal law that bars workers from being fired based on their sexual orientation.“So only six in 10 lesbians, gays and bisexuals know there is no national law protecting them from employment discrimination,” he said. “Considering this has been the top priority for advocates in Washington for the past 20 years, that is pretty astounding and disappointing.”

Marty Rouse, national field director for Human Rights Campaign, said he was “discouraged” by the finding and that it demonstrated the need for further education.The findings come despite information that shows gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans are more politically active than the general population.Egan said 33 percent of the poll’s gay, lesbian and bisexual respondents indicated they were “very interested” in politics, compared to 22 percent in the general population.

The poll’s respondents were likelier than people in the general population to have engaged in some kind of political activity during the preceeding year.According to the analysis, gays, lesbians and bisexuals were 7.6 percent likelier to have contacted a government official, 6.9 percent likelier to have attended a protest or rally and 3.6 percent likelier to give money to a campaign.

Egan said the increased political participation could be attributed at least partly to the coming out process, which the poll showed greatly changed many gays, lesbians and bisexuals who responded.“There’s something politically transformative about this period that people have long suspected,” he said. “Now we’re nailing down the changes that are happening during this period.”

That period was defined in the poll as the time between a respondent’s earliest coming-out experience, often when the individual first thought he or she might be gay, and the latest such experience, usually when the person first told someone he or she is gay.

According to the analysis, respondents tended to become less religious, more liberal and more interested in politics during this time, although many reported no change.

The analysis, released Wednesday, came about through ongoing review of the Hunter College poll conducted in November. It was authored by Egan; Ken Sherrill, a Hunter College political science professor; and Murray Edelman, a Rutgers College scholar and former editorial director of Voter News Service.

Other new findings from the poll, which was funded by HRC and controlled by Hunter College, showed the respondents’ priorities for gay civil rights issues.According to the analysis, gay, lesbian and bisexual respondents generally placed laws regarding workplace discrimination hate crimes as their top issues.

Efforts toward ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and securing rights for transgender people scored the lowest.Respondents 18-25 years old indicated that marriage and adoption rights were the top issues, while respondents 65 years and older noted laws regarding hate crimes and workplace discrimination were most important.