“Stigma” Causing Rise In Gonorrhea And Syphilis Infections?

Posted January 8, 2014 by with 52 comments

1940 Dont Be A DopeHave you heard? Not only is HIV on the rise, but gonorrhea and syphilis rates are also up, by 4 and 11 percent in 2012, respectively. Thank the lord for Truvada! Except, ha ha, just kidding, Truvada doesn’t do anything to prevent gonorrhea and syphilis.

According to the CDC’s latest report:

Gay and bisexual men may not have access to high-quality care, because homophobia and stigma around STDs may prevent men from being tested, the director of the CDC’s STD prevention devision [sic] said.

The hell?! Homophobia is preventing gay men from having access to health care? I wish there were statistics on how many gay men were denied “high-quality” care (as if that exists for anyone in the United States), but the CDC isn’t providing those numbers. Because they don’t exist.

This is particularly true of poor people in the South, said George W. Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California at San Francisco.

“With most of these populations, having a sexually transmitted disease from having sex with another man is highly stigmatized,” he said. “They’d rather not get tested for HIV, syphilis, or whatever. They don’t want it to show up on their records.”

Ah yes, the always “stigmatized,” STD-carrying gay man. Who is he? There’s even a whole campaign based around the mythical condition (if 2013 was the year of “bullying,” 2014 is the year of “stigma”), HIV Equal, which seeks to remove the stigma from getting an HIV test by labeling everyone, negative and positive, as “equal” (someone failed algebra). But who, exactly, is stigmatizing these gay men? The medical community, by constantly reminding everyone that there is no shame or judgment in getting tested, and that all test results remain confidential? The activist groups like HIV Equal, who give you fancy photoshopped Facebook profile pics for you to share with the entire world (almost as if you are living without stigma!)? Never mind that we live in a time when it has never been more acceptable to be gay and to have gay sex, because, uhhh, stigma is on the rise! Introducing the leading cause of all new STD infections: Stigma.

Sorry I passed on my syphilis and my gonorrhea and my HIV to you when we had bareback sex the other night without a condom, but you know how it is. Stigma, man.

Instead of calling people out for reckless behavior (barebacking without knowing their status), our institutions have turned into politically correct, self-esteem boosting “moms” who sugarcoat and poopoo bad decisions by blaming them on elusive forces outside of our control. It’s too offensive (and remember, the last thing you want to do in the age of Alec Baldwin and Duck Dynasty is offend someone) to tell people that they’re irresponsible for not using condoms. Nowadays, that’s actually called “condom-shaming.” So, be careful! Blame people for their irresponsible behavior, and you’re only adding to the stigma. Whatever that is.

It’s 2014, and if you can’t find a way to figure out what kind of diseases you have, you aren’t a “stigmatized gay man,” you’re a pussy. And if you don’t know your status and also neglect to wear a condom? You’re a pussy and an asshole.

  • JoshChicago

    That makes Michael Lucas at least an asshole and probably more.

  • robirob

    Ignorance is bliss.

    Responsibility is hard.

    Doing the right thing? Not fun.

    Protect yourself! Boooooo!

    Live in the now!

    I want it, I want it NOW!

  • James Withers

    Think you’re being a bit bombastic here. While too many of us shy away from taking responsibility for our own health, you’re minimizing the difficulty too many of us (usually young and poor) have in being our own best advocates.

    • JoshChicago

      The LGBT community probably has more free clinics (often funded by the NIH) in this country than many heterosexuals do. There’s really few if any roadblocks in most communities to get tested for STD’s. Being an advocate for one’s self requires utilizing the available resources and it begins with you..

      • James Withers

        OK, but those very clinics are placed in neighborhoods where people self identify in a particular way. Men who have sex with men don’t know about these facilities nor identify as gay.

        • robirob

          Oh please, they know where to seek treatment (and just to be clear I mean both their STIs and their identity issues), but they are too afraid to get caught by someone who knows them, because it will ruin their manly reputation.

        • JoshChicago

          Men who have sex with other men and don’t know about these facilities nor identify as gay should not be whining about “decor” or inconvenience. They should be getting therapy. Wake up Mary!

          • James Withers

            Don’t think anyone is whining. Just describing a situation.

          • KB

            Wake up mary to you! Most these men can’t afford therapy! There are of course services out there that could offer therapy to these people but the only people who are informed about these services, are the people who don’t need them. Typical white dude thinking poor people have the same privileges and access to resources that he does.

          • JoshChicago

            why do you continue to enable their fears and discomfort? And, why for goodness sake are you hanging with these – as you call them, “poor and disenfranchised” individuals when you have been basically raised by the privileged people of whom you now seemingly hate?

      • Big D

        Those clinics exist largely in the gay ghettoes of our larger cities. There are plenty gay men and women who don’t live anywhere near those clinics, who may not know of their existence. And if they do know, they may not feel welcomed in those clinics since most of them seem to cater to rich white (older) gay men. Those of us who aren’t rich or white (or older) often don’t feel like those clinics will understand our needs. So we don’t go. And that’s only if we know about them in the first place.

        • JoshChicago

          You know, BD, you’re absolutely right. Why make some poor, misunderstood and unwelcome person feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about who they are over their recreational sexual romps in the secretive dark. Why should any of them be held responsible for their recreational behaviors to ensure that they are not walking petri dishes of glowing florescent toxic disease which they then spread to their next unsuspecting romp in the dark.

          Let’s just be quiet about it, because, as I’m sure you know, it will be so much easier and comfortable for them when they develop full-blown AIDS or rampant gonorrhea disease of the brain.

          It wont be uncomfortable or embarrassing for them at all when they have to choose between death or walking (if they still can) into the public health department and applying for state funded HIV retroantivirals to save their poor, misunderstood lives, where it will then most certainly become a matter of public information with the state.

          Thanks for clearing this up for me.

          • Still D, Bitch

            Boy, bye.

            My overall point is that HIV stigma is still very real as is gay stigma and both operate to keep too many gay men and women from making reasonable, healthy, responsible decisions w/regard to behavior. Thankfully the CDC and others who have real power (as opposed to mere Internet power) understand it and take steps to address it. Thankfully there ppl out there who actually seem to care about the lives of gays who don’t live in the various gayborhoods in our big cities or some other similar bubbles (*waves @ Zach*).

    • zach

      How hard is it to use a condom? Although to be fair, no one’s telling people to use condoms anymore, so the message is fading quickly. Oh well.

      • James Withers

        You’re right. The safe sex message no longer has the cache it once had.

      • KB

        Ask straight people.

  • Cosmic

    Where’s Charlie Harding and Mike Dozer to argue the counter point with a fun and wacky t-shirt slogan?

  • KB

    I don’t understand you. You HATE bareback and trash Lucas over it, yet you love BelAmi and even endorse their scenes when they bareback. Typical entitled white man who thinks these aren’t issues simply because they aren’t in your white world that you live in where everything is fair and just. Yes, homophobia and stigma is the main bad guy here. The MAJORITY of STI’s are transmitted by people who have NOT been tested. They don’t get tested because they don’t want to live with the stigma they know they will face. Like you constantly telling them gay men who have had or will have bareback sex are sick and two seconds later jerk off to some “straight” guy breeding another “straight” guy. You sure don’t have a problem with those scenes. Didn’t you even encourage a triple bareback penetration scene oh but it’s ok as long as the company is “straightish'” like BelAmi, and SeanCody. MANY of these cases the CDC describes are gay men who are POOR so they can’t afford a nice doctor to do the testing for them with discretion. Plus, the poorer a community the more likely it will be more homophobic. Not every gay man lives in a gay ghetto like NYC or LA where they can be safe. MOST white gay men are privileged and totally oblivious to the challenges many gay men of color face. So please go jerkoff to some bareback gangbang but hey it’s ok as long as they are “gay4pay” another ridiculous stupid myth you buy into.

    • JoshChicago

      “MOST white gay men are privileged and totally oblivious to the challenges many gay men of color face.”

      Your ignorance is staggering. And here I thought Diesel Washington was the angriest man of color I knew of.

      • KB

        Diesel Washington the angriest man of color you “know”? LMAO. You mean the only man of color you “know”. Oh, and I may not be white but I do know about white privilege and have even benefited from it myself. See, I’m colored, but I’m light enough I can easily pass off as Italian, and since I’m a foreigner, most people assume I’m European or from Argentina, and my whole life I’v benefited off of white privilege and as a result have had access to travel and education (gay, colored AND white friendly? Hello Scholarships!) MOST people in this world never will. Even conservative people like me when I tell them I’m an immigrant. They’ll say: It’s cool! You came here legally! The ones I hate are the illegal ones. Of course, the only reason I came here legally is because of white privilege. Yet here in the USA, even here in NYC, so many gay white men act like these issues don’t exist because most are lucky enough that they will never know true poverty nor are they conscious of the white privilege they benefit off. Most of these cases the CDC is talking about are poor colored men, yet here we have Zach shaming them as if that’s going to help. We get it. Poor, and gay men deserve HIV when they bareback. But it they’re white and “straight”, bareback is AOK. I even have an idiot friend who got fucked raw a while back. This friend spoke of being anti-bb in the past, so when I questioned him why? The idiot told the guy who bbd him was “straight” and “married” so he wasn’t worried.

        • JoshChicago

          Since you use the term “colored” – I’d just suggest that your knowledge of what you’re speaking about is equally as dated and deficient of the realities and facts of most white people living in this country. Had you spent less of your time using the privileged people for what you could milk them for – and more of it living day to day with common everyday white people and their struggles simply to survive and feed and educate their families – you’d know better. But you didn’t and so, you don’t.

      • James Withers

        If Diesel Washington is the angriest man of color you know, please get out more often.

    • zach

      tl;dr

      • Big D

        You’re not this much of a coward, Zach. Man up.

    • Big D

      I agree about the white entitlement part. This particular post drips w/it. It’s pretty gross.

  • txsaneman

    A very well written and appropriate article. Too bad it will be dismissed as (insert) shaming. We’re too busy making sure no one’s feelings get hurt to give them the common sense advice and truth that may save their lives. Infections are on the rise because no one’s scared anymore and no one wants to tell them that HIV is still a serious disease that should not be viewed with the same reverence as acne.

    • KB

      Change some of the words, and it’s pretty much what homophobes are saying about gays whenever they hear about gay marriage or Duck Dynasty.

  • Big D

    It must be nice in the bubble in which you live, Zach. Unfortunately, most gay men and women don’t live in a bubble like yours. We’re out in the real world where, yes, there is still quite a bit of stigma attached to living outwardly gay. And yes, that stigma (or the fear of the stigma) does keep too many gay men and women from being out to their doctors, even though their docs are supposed to keep that info confidential. You can try to be cute w/your snarky, dismissive tone all you want but it doesn’t change the reality for many of our gay brethren and sistren.

    You may need to get out more.

    • Zoompietro

      You know you don’t have to be out to your doctor to know your status right? You can get an STD test without ever having to tell your doctor that you like men, women, or both.

    • LiamMcG

      Hell, you can buy condoms without disclosing your sexuality. You can buy condoms in rural areas or urban areas. If you can’t buy them, it’s usually pretty easy to find them for free. Zach is exactly on point. Rising STD and HIV rates have nothing to do with stigma. They have everything to do with being irresponsible to yourself and your partner.

  • zach

    Anyone else who leaves a comment on this post accusing me of ignoring “poor” people(?) and having “white privilege” for observing that our medical institutions have abandoned condom messaging and that everyone should in fact use condoms to protect themselves from STDs will be banned from commenting and have their remarks deleted.

    • Big D

      LOL. Then maybe stop posting like a rich gay asshole who lives in a bubble and doesn’t care about poor ppl and I’ll stop commenting about it.

      And I don’t agree that our medical institutions have abandoned condom messaging but if they have it may be b/c more emphasis was put on testing a few yrs ago.

  • andy

    Ummm, excuse me, aren’t you the same person who flipped out over a much tamer call to be responsible from the site Being HIV Negative? You wrote then “There’s enough shame that unfortunately comes with being HIV-positive in the first place, but stigmatizing an entire community by manufacturing a need for “balanced dialogue” due to the reckless behavior of a few is what’s really shameful.”
    You are a complete hypocrite. Glad to see you finally came to realize what Adnum did a long time ago when you ruthlessly attacked him.

    http://thesword.com/this-website-is-not-to-provide-a-forum-for-gloating-or-antagonism.html

    • zach

      Hi “Andy.” Might want to check your definition of the word hypocrite, as what I wrote in the article you’ve linked is criticism of a specific awful website designed for people to gloat about being HIV negative. The article I wrote today is criticizing the lack of condom use and personal responsibility. Two unbelievably different things. Also, go fuck yourself.

      • andy

        No the site was about how to remain negative you fucktard. And how do you remain neg? By taking personal responsibility and using condoms. Work on your reading comprehension. But hey nice reply! You almost completely distracted everyone on how late you are and how you completely contradict yourself.

  • Ale Lisboa

    I also have some doubts about the owner of this page (Zach) now that I’ve read some reviews my doubts have grown. Zach is an advocate of the use of condoms, which seems very good, although it has double standards, I also read his taste for bareback sex with straight actors, for example Sean Cody Jarek and Crempie. So my question is: straight actors can have bareback sex, no problem with them, but gays have bareback sex actors are labeled as a bad example and irresponsible? I do not understand. And forgive me if I’m wrong, but it is something that had been around his head, ask him with the greatest respect, if you get your answer would be very grateful.

    (also sorry if my english is not appropriate or little understood)

    • zach

      I don’t “advocate” for bareback or for condoms in porn. In real life, I tell people to wear condoms to avoid getting STD, just like any person with a functioning brain would. Porn is a business, and while it can influence certain sexual decisions made in the real world, it can still be made responsibly, or it can be made like trash, and I’ll judge accordingly. Do NOT put my words in my mouth. No where have I advocated for one thing over another, and if you’re going to say that I have, you better provide evidence/links. In the future, these types of comments will be deleted.

      And as far as a “taste” for bareback with straight actors over gay actors, I will not even dignify that with a response.

      • Ale Lisboa

        thanks for your reply. maybe I got confused at various points due to lack of my English, anyway sorry if I have assumed wrong.

      • Viva La Bambi

        Well Zach, you must admit you cover barebacking positively when it’s in the context of Sean Cody or Bel Ami – both studios noted for their allegedly ‘straight’ models – while you’ve been condemnatory of Treasure Island Media, Mike Dozer, Charlie Harding, etc. Certainly the aesthetics differ, we imagine attractive people like SC models will never get sick, but that’s not the reality.
        I do enjoy your site Zach, longtime reader here, but I think it’s fair to be critical about how barebacking is portrayed on your site as it is becoming a new norm.

  • Ale Lisboa

    On the subject, I’m honest and I have to say I like the scenes bareback, I have personally afraid to have sex without a condom, the condom always at hand, so I think I fantasize about these scenes bareback, but life is worth more, so I often wonder if it really worth these actors risk their lives and health for the money, money that eventually ends, my answer is that not worth it.

  • Zoompietro

    I’m not sure if I understand the relevance of the “poor people” argument that I’ve seen in some of the comments. I grew up in a poor neighborhood (shit, I’m still poor just in a better neighborhood) and I wasn’t running around having unsafe sex, unaware of my status. What does being poor have anything to do with it? You can be poor and still have safe sex and know your status without developing a stigma. I didn’t come out until I was in college, no one knew I was gay growing up (or at least I don’t think anyone knew) and that didn’t stop me from having sex at a young age. You don’t have to go to a free clinic that caters to the LGBT community to get an STD tests and/or treatment, you can go to any free clinic and no one will be the wiser. They’ll also give you condoms, for free. Hell you could go to Planned Parenthood and get all of those services when I was in high school, they even came to the school and pratically begged people to take advantage of the resources. I know there have been some cutbacks in Planned Parenthood funding, but I’m pretty sure they still offer those services. There is plenty of access to STD prevention and treatment for the poor and it’s completely confidential, so there’s really no excuse. STDs don’t give a shit about what’s in your bank account, poor people aren’t anymore or less susceptible to an STD than anyone else. The problem is with people that refuse to do something as simple as use a condom and/or get tested, and that isn’t specific to poor people. I’m sure the comments were meant to advocate for the poor, but they were actually pretty uninformed.

  • Dutch Courage

    I agree with the general argument of Zach’s words but I do not agree with the way he tackles the criticism of some of the commenters. It is his blog and he can do whatever he wants but threaten to ban people, deleting comments and saying that commenters “can go fuck themselves” is in my view not a good response. In fact, it is a very weak response. It might give some people the impression that your arguments are not as strong as they might seem at first glance and that you have to resort to tougher measures to win a discussion. I believe in arguments, not threats. If you can’t convince other people with your arguments so be it.

    I won’t call Zach a hypocrite (because I don’t think he is) but there is a friction point when a gay porn blog writes approvingly of bareback scenes but at the same time writes critical pieces about the STI situation in the gay community. My guess is (correct me if I’m wrong) that this friction point partly lies behind the way he reacts to some of the criticism.

    • Viva La Bambi

      True, it’s a little bi-polar of Zach to gush about hot bareback scenes, and then vigorously call people who bareback irresponsible. I guess he’s adopted the standard ‘Don’t try this at home’ warning.

      • zach

        Yes, I call people who choose to not know their status and then not wear a condom and then spread diseases irresponsible. How does that have anything to do with “gushing” over actors in a bareback porn movie??!

  • sbd

    Thanks for this article, Zach. I agree with everything in it. Enough already with the incessant whining about “stigma” at every turn. Enough already with preposterous messaging campaigns that aim to suggest that being HIV-positive is “equal” to being HIV-negative. And enough already with so-called prevention advocates who long ago dropped the ball on condom messaging.

    I’ll note, however, that the comment deletions and threats of comment deletions don’t seem to me to align with the site’s “no censors” tagline. This is your baby and you of course get to run it as you wish, but for what it’s worth, if you’re going to censor certain comments, I don’t think that tagline fits.

    Thanks again for the article itself.

    • zach

      I only delete comments/commenters that are hijacking the discussion or trying to make the thread about something that the original article was not. In this case, two specific people were trying to make this about race and poverty (which is absurd), and I did not want the actual arguments in the article to be lost. They had their initial say and were able to leave comments, but after that…no more.

      • Viva La Bambi

        You can’t divorce AIDS from race or poverty. Almost half of people with HIV in America are Black, and Blacks comprise two-thirds of new infections. Black gay men are the hardest hit of all. Ignoring the racial divides in our society has failed, so an honest discussion about HIV in America will include this racial disparity.

        • Viva La Bambi

          Added for reference, only 13% of Americans are Black, to give an indication of how overburdened their community is with HIV.

  • Bull

    I live in a rural community. The closest STD clinic is about an hour and a half away. There is no LGBT friendly support organization within approx 50miles. And while for the most part the medical community here is somewhat educated, it’s quite likely the nurse, technician or medical records employee might be a friend, friend of a friend, someone who knows you and your family quite well or even be related to you. Even with the privacy law, it still could “leak” anonymously. Plus the services are NOT free and the poverty level in the rural areas is much higher than people realize. Most of the working poor do not have medical insurance(yet, hopefully the affordable care act will change that, if it’s not gutted by congress). The state run health clinic(30 miles away) has been virtually starved of funds and their services are questionable at best.

    There is also the misconception that HIV is a big city problem and that it’s still a gay disease. Even with all the information available via the internet so many are not educated and see no reason to learn, I mean, after all “people who live here don’t get it”. Sex education in the school system is a joke, when they have it.

    And yes, there is stigma. Among the men who have sex with men, a significant number would never consider being intimate with a poz person knowingly. The ones who are on the “DL” even more so. And while many give vocal supportive comments, when in private are quite the opposite. The same ones are afraid to appear to be too close with an out poz individual because they fear others will assume they are poz also. So close friendships can be hard to develop and keep.

    I don’t know first hand about the “white privilege” issue as there are very very few people who are not white here. But I do believe it exists. I am a member of a minority based upon sexual orientation and I see many examples of “str8” privilege every day.

    I can count on one hand the number of poz people I know and only 2 are open about it. I’ve known more, but sadly they are no longer here.

    We can stand on our soapbox and shout about what “ignorant fools” they are for not being tested and having bb sex. But that not accomplish anything but make them feel secretly ashamed and resistant to change at the same time. They are ignorant fools but working to change that not shame them is where our priorities should be.

    I can’t speak about what it’s like elsewhere, because I don’t know. But that is how it is here. Everyday.

  • Marko

    Most sexual health information programs targeted at msm still advocate condom use – they’ve just broadened the message to include risk management in response to observed trends in sexual behaviour. Of course pharma-companies and their duck-lipped shills will muddy the discussion & paint a picture of a rosy, healthy life with no need for condoms, but they shouldn’t be confused with sexual health information. There are still people working and volunteering to get the safe sex message out there but for a number of reasons it’s not having the impact it used to. The ‘stigma’ referred to by the CDC report refers to the stigma felt by men who have sex with men but who don’t identify as gay (quite probably out of shame). We live in a society with a bizarre public attitude to sex so it’s little surprise that many people still feel tremendous guilt & shame about their sexual selves – they’re the ones who don’t test because they don’t want to discuss with ANYONE what they do. It’s odd to out gay people like ourselves but it’s out there and it’s the reality that public health initiatives have to deal with.