Over the phone, I could hear quiet anguish in the mothers gentle contralto voice: We found out in late August. He sat us both down and told us his secret. Deep inside, I already knew. I guess Ive known for a long time, but I could not accept it. Hes my baby boy. How could he be a freak of nature? We couldnt talk about it. When he came home for Christmas, We talked about his job, his new home, and his new car. He and his brother talked about golf, and basketball, and everything else except that. Im so frightened. Suppose he gets it. Suppose he already has it. I dont want him to come home sick.
I dont want other people taking care of my child. I dont want him to die. His father and I cant bring ourselves to talk about it eitherbut (Scego, Betty. June 2000) Homosexuality traditionally has been frowned upon and scorned in the United States as well as other countries across the globe; it is often ignored and kept in the closet. Some people argue that homosexuality is unnatural, some families view homosexuality as an affront to their values. Although tolerance toward homosexual people has grown in recent times and there is more attention to their civil rights, many people still find it difficult to accept homosexuality.
According to 1994 statistics, at least sixty percent of United States AIDS cases have been transmitted through homosexual activity. (Socialism of the skin, 1994). As this figure represents a number greater than half of all reported cases, I believe that it is safe to assume homosexuals are still a group that exhibits one of the greatest levels of risk behavior. With this in mind, I began to seek out a profession that would enable me to reach out to the gay population and educate them so that their behavior may be influenced in a more positive direction- avoiding infection while maintaining a safe, satisfying sex life.
In the absence of a cure, or an effective vaccine, education and risk reduction can be powerful tools in the fight against AIDS for any group. Because of the limited number of transmission routes, avoiding behaviors that place persons at risk could virtually stop the further spread of AIDS. Education can help to achieve this, through development and dissemination of materials by local community groups, statewide organizations, and national governments. In 1988, for example, the U. S. Public Health Service produced a simple, straightforward brochure containing information about HIV infection and AIDS.
The brochure was mailed to every household in the nation. Although behavior change is often very hard to achieve, studies have indicated that such change is beginning to noticeably occur in all but one group: homosexuals. (Socialism of the skin. 1994). I strongly believe that while the association between homosexuality and AIDS has been well publicized by the media, there is not nearly as much emphasis on safe homosexual sex as there is on safe heterosexual sex. Emphasis on the importance of condoms, abstinence and various risk-lowering methods are aimed only at male-female couples and never at the highest risk-type; male-male couples.
Consequently, I have found it necessary that we begin implementing more programs and education geared towards reducing the high-risk behavior exhibited by gay males. In understanding how to control or influence the behavior of any group of people, one must first understand the people. A certain degree of diversity exists among the types of individuals who call themselves homosexuals. (Issues in the Perception of Aids. 1988) The popular stereotype of the homosexual as a sexually promiscuous male who will not maintain a relationship reflects only one type.
There are, however, many other gay people, female and male, who have formed long-lasting, sometimes lifelong relationships. Additionally, many homosexuals have begun to adopt children of different races; some of them are raising these children alone or with their partner. And lead lives not much different than those of heterosexual parents. Gay persons are basically in every kind of job and hold all kinds of political positions. Some are very open about their homosexuality, and some are more private. Some view their homosexuality as biological, and others view theirs as a personal preference.
In the field of work that I do, I have learned that homosexuality has been common in most cultures. Despite tolerant periods, however–in ancient Greece, for example–homosexuality has been widely condemned as it is in our contemporary society. I know that Christians view homosexuality as sinful and put that tradition into written law. As a result, homosexual activity was considered a crime, and the penalty in early courts was death. Homosexual behavior is still illegal in many countries. However, Homosexuality continues to occur, even in societies that strongly condemn it.
Unfortunately, because of societies negative feelings towards Homosexuality, high-risk behavior has resulted because these individuals become secretive and rebellious. Research indicates that homosexuality was viewed as a sickness more so than a sin several decades ago. Different Ideas about the origin and nature of homosexuality were based solely on the study of psychiatric patients that came from dysfunctional families. Some research suggested disorders in family relationships, particularly between mother and son, this research pointed to this being a major cause of homosexuality.
I am not convinced by these theories, not only because they are based on the assumption that homosexuals are psychologically abnormal, but also because many heterosexual people come from dysfunctional families that have relationship disorders. Are some men born? 1991). In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders. Although most of the mental health professions dont consider homosexuality an illness, there are still some who insist that it is. More recent theories have suggested that homosexual behavior may be an adaptive response to situations.
For example, a prison inmate might participate in homosexual activities while in prison but return to heterosexual behavior upon release. While such theories can offer explanations about why homosexuality occurs in some situations, to date there are no conclusive general theories that can explain the causation of homosexuality. (Stigmatizing the Victim, 1986). Because of the controversial nature of homosexuality and the heavy social pressures against it, many individuals are reluctant to reveal that they are gay.
Estimates of the incidence of homosexuality have thus been misleading and inaccurate. Attitudes toward homosexuality have begun to change in recent decades. Gays attribute this, in part, to their own assertiveness about their rights and about pride in their orientation. Gay activism, which according to my research began in the late 1960’s as a civil rights movement, has helped to change people’s thinking. While some attitudes change, however, prejudice against homosexuals still exists. This attitude sometimes causes people to make harsh judgments about homosexual individuals.
The AIDS epidemic, to which many male homosexuals are falling victim, may be a major contributing factor to antigay prejudices. As more gays have identified themselves publicly, they have also formed more public organizations. There are gay journals, gay newspapers, and gay political groups, These groups have formed an alliance; they support candidates for public office, fight legal battles in such cases as child custody, and work in other areas to eliminate discrimination. Yearly Gay Pride marches in major cities are intended to bring about awareness by society. (The Shrinking Ten Percent. 93).
So with all of this gay pride in mind, it is evident that there is no simple solution to the problem of effectively teaching homosexuals to avoid high-risk behavior. And with the variety and types of homosexuals in society, it is doubtful that there is any one solution to the problem either. Since it can be established that homosexuals are normal people; it can be further said that there exists a large amount of sub-categories for homosexuals. For example, someone could be white & homosexual, black & homosexual, poor & homosexual, rich & homosexual, or virtually anything and homosexual.
Therefore, in teaching the avoidance of high-risk behavior, society must realize that to a certain extent, homosexuals must each be treated for their individuality and not just for their group stereotypes. I have learned that; one behavior can be associated with virtually every gay person and that behavior is homosexual activity. Since high-risk behavior is for the most part, comprised of unprotected, random encounters of a sexual nature, we must first attack the problem by teaching safe sex to homosexuals.
However, to teach all gays not to engage in any sexual activity at all would be crazy, since they have sexual desires, which need to be fulfilled just as heterosexuals do. Just as our parents, Schools, and media are teaching lower risk populations about the importance of safe heterosexual sex, I believe that we should also teach about the importance of safe homosexual sex as well. To do this, homosexuality must be recognized as a legitimate sexual preference. We cannot afford to continue to ignore it.
I feel that in order to teach homosexuals to stop high-risk behavior, we must first begin by teaching society to accept homosexuality. If society would go ahead and accept homosexuality I believe it would have a huge effect on high-risk behavior. Although, while working in the Case Management field, I have found that many intelligent and health-conscious homosexuals still engage in random acts of unprotected sex. I have found that many of society’s more distinguished homosexuals remain “in the closet”.
These individuals look for quick, discreet gay encounters where the other person does not know them, or anything about them. They stake-out bathroom stalls, movie theatres, etc, looking for gay men to have random sex with. Recent data on HIV prevalence and risk behaviors suggest that homosexual men continue to place themselves at risk for infection with HIV and other diseases. (Need for Sustained HIV Prevention. 2000). If we could create a society that accepted homosexuality, many gay men would come out of the closet and lead healthier, more meaningful sex lives.
In one article I read, an anonymous survey indicated that most ‘closet gays’ leading high-risk life styles wish that they could “come out” and get involved in “normal gay relationships. ” In a sense, we as a society are apparently to blame for much of their tendency towards undesirable high-risk behavior. (Stigma: 1963). All homosexuals do not engage in high-risk behavior. I have found threw working very closely with homosexuals, that those involved in serious homosexual relationships remain loyal and true to their lovers even more so than heterosexuals do!
The transmission of AIDS is greatest where men are socially forced to hide their homosexuality by seeking unclean, unprotected sexual encounters wherever they can for their sole purpose of quick, sexual fulfillment. Based on my findings, I am convinced that safe homosexuality should be taught in schools and by the media, just as we teach safe sex to our heterosexual community. After all, if sixty percent of AIDS cases are homosexual and one of our primary goals in teaching safe sex is to prevent AIDS, it is only logical that their be a focus on homosexuals beyond just the simple mentioning of them “constituting a high risk group.
Once this is done by schools and by the media, society will take the next step in accepting homosexuality and homosexuals as societal equals to heterosexuality and heterosexuals. As a result, gays will be less pressured to hide their sexuality and seek anonymous fulfillment in bathroom stalls and adult movie theaters. The problem is not gay sex; just as it is not heterosexual sex- the problem is unprotected, unclean gay sex just as the problem is unprotected, unclean heterosexual sex.