When I said I would write this column it was in response to the fact that for the second week running I saw a young gay lad on The Joy Teenage Sex on Channel 4 talking about his unprotected sex experiences. He didn’t know if he had HIV, as he had never been tested.
This has made me wonder either what is going so wrong, or why I am so different.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve slept with a lot of men, I came out at 16 and by 19 I was very sexually experienced. Then and today my health has been important, life is important to me and living it to the max is important for me.
At the tender age of 17 I was encouraged by a few friends from the gay scene to visit a GUM clinic, they, just a few years older than me, were aware and friendly. Today, the only discussion I hear when on the scene regarding sexual health is that of a derogatory or humorous nature – I do wonder what young gay people are being told or are learning outside school.
The first thing I learned before I entered the gay scene was that gays had the highest rate of HIV. I knew I had to be careful. How has that changed?
Condoms were second nature – free condoms and lube at every bar. Governments, health organsiations and activists can blame drinking, being second-rate citizens, bareback porn, or lack of education in schools but that doesn’t replace the fact that people are much more sexually experienced today – capable of discussing sex of any nature yet ignoring the consequences of unsafe sex.
It does surprise me how willing young people are to admit their utter stupidity (gay, straight, male or female). Only a few years ago I was one of the first to have a sexual health test on the TV programme Embarrassing Illnesses. At that time they struggled to find people willing to be filmed to do so.
To see how ignorant some gay people can be sometimes make me embarrassed – just look at the recent headlines – these aren’t scaremongering stories made by the tabloid press this is the gay press highlighting the problem.
It’s sad and disappointing to see young guys on TV programmes flaunting their supposed innocence over safe sex.
This is an issue of self-government. Until all everyone takes responsibility for themselves and their fellow gay people I believe we will continue to be regarded as second-rate people.
I may sound like I’ve lived through it, but at 29-years old I am shocked to be meeting those under 40 years old, who never lived through the first HIV epidemic contracting HIV.
So what is it about younger gay men that they are willing to take such risks? The one in seven gay men living in London with HIV is hardly a small number.