Monday, May 02, 2005

I'm always happy when other voices pipe up about the problems of endless alarming scare tactics and messages from AIDS Inc and government, but one issue I have with Rofes' comments is that he frequently gives interviews with out-of-town newspapers about what needs addressing with HIV prevention and queer male health, but when it comes to actually getting his ideas implemented in his own backyard in San Francisco, he seems to do little.

In any event, I hope Rofes' thoughts launch a frank discussion in San Francisco about important matters related to the social marketing campaigns targeting queer men in this town.

The biggest hindrance to making that much-needed debate happen here is that dozens of government-funded AIDS and queer groups would want to hold meetings and control the dialogue, which is part of the problem. Queer men in San Francisco can't have a talk amongst ourselves about HIV and all of our health needs and concerns without the health department and AIDS groups using any forum to raise more moolah for themselves and justify their bloated staffs.

For now, I'll be pleased if a discussion about forcing a "time-out" from all the social marketing efforts starts on gay web sites.

Here's an excerpt from the interview.


May 2, 2005
To Be
Ottawa, Canada

Eric Rofes Speaks

By Kat Coric

Kat: What role does government play?

Eric: I am not sure how to answer the rest of the questions. I think more than anything we need a few years of “time out” from directive AIDS prevention work for gay men. We need to get away from all the messaging, all the marketing, all the “crises of the week” used to terrify gay men into sexual sterility (here I am talking about “new” strains of HIV, or the crisis of crystal, or the crisis of barebacking, or the crisis of low-self-esteem or any of the “second wave” of AIDS we’ve supposedly been seeing over the past 15 years).

I think gay men need time out, time on our own, to heal, to discover, and to return to a place where our sex and desires and bodies were things of joy and excitement, and pleasure and intense spiritual connection. Frankly, many of us have forged our own “time out” from all of the violence sent down to us by AIDS prevention. Many gay men do their very best to avoid the messaging, avoid the social marketing, avoid getting caught up in the drama of crisis about our sex. Many others have turned to substances to provide us with a time out from the dissonance. I think one of the appeals of the circuit and of massive party weekends such as International Mr. Leather or Gay Pride is that one can take a time out from all of the intense marketing and messaging we receive in our everyday lives about what it means to be a gay man, what our sex should be like, what rights we should have or not have…

What effects does the colonization of bodies and desires have on a people when it is allowed to go on for 25 years? Stop already. Stop the madness. Stop the manipulation. Stop telling us things that we know are lies (“condoms are fun!” “drugs are bad!”). Give us a time-out to heal.

Kat: And what about social marketing?

Eric: The use of social marketing as the primary tool in HIV education and prevention has been a disaster with consequences we never imagined. While social marketing might be useful for the simple presentation of non-directive information, AIDS prevention for gay men has almost NEVER been non-directive. Instead social-marketing has become the primary way well-intentioned public health leaders have attempted to colonize the bodies and desires of gay men. To their credit, gay men have rebelled, resisted, and developed our own sex cultures and sex values that are quite contrary to most social marketing values. It’s the difference between abstinence only (“use a condom every time”) and harm reduction (providing people with information and trusting them to move forward on their own volition). I’ll stop there.

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