Friday, March 13, 2009

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Anal Condom is No Pain in the Ass;
FDA Approval Omits Sodomy

It was thirteen years ago that I discovered the female condom and that it could be used by gay men when engaging in anal sex. One of the biggest problems in 1996 in San Francisco was convincing leaders of AIDS Inc to promote the condom pouch, marketed as Reality, to sexually-active gay men.

Many gay and AIDS professionals were afraid to push Reality in the gay community because they felt it would confuse dumb homosexuals, who were receiving "cover the cock" messages as effective HIV/STD prevention.

Educating gays about the anal condom would mean a huge shift away from solely focusing on the penis and expanding prevention to embrace protecting the rectum from infections. It was so infuriating that liberal gay leaders in San Francisco, not Sen. Jesse Helms or the Moral Majority, were the stumbling block.

A 1996 story by Mike Salinas in the Bay Area Reporter included great quotes from a few AIDS Inc worker generally favorable toward Reality for gay men, but no social marketing campaigns were funded to actively encourage gays to adopt the device and have another tool to stop new HIV infections:

San Francisco AIDS activists Michael Petrelis became the first male to ask for the internal condoms at the city health clinics, which lead to a brief inquiry by the city's Human Rights Commission into whether the refusal to his request constituted sex discrimination, before the policy was changed.

Petrelis said he is outraged that the federal government stopped progress on the Aegis because of homophobia, and also derided health officials for not fully investigating the Reality, which he blamed on "the de-gaying of AIDS" and homophobia.

All these years later, we are still faced with the same situation, in which AIDS groups and professional gay leaders are silent about the female condom and that it can, and should, be used by gay men.

The Food and Drug Administration this week approved a new improved version of the female condom, again only for use in vaginal sex. Apparently the FDA and the manufacturer, aren't aware of anal sex and the need to promote Reality to all persons, gay or straight, when having butt-sex.

This health blog at the Chicago Tribune site is fairly typical of news accounts this week, omitting any mention of sodomy and homosexuals:

The agency’s decision was expected after an FDA advisory panel endorsed the product late last year. The condom is manufactured by the Female Health Company, based in Chicago.

The new version, made of synthetic rubber instead of polyurethane, is cheaper than the original female condom -- a long lubricated sheath anchored at either end by a flexible ring. When inserted, the closed end of the sheath is positioned high in the vaginal canal.

Though the material is different in the updated version, the design is not. Both products are equally effective.

Costs will run about 30 percent below current prices, making the product more affordable for individuals as well as public health organizations, according to Mary Ann Leeper, strategic adviser to the Female Health Co.

Because it was expensive, the original female condom never really caught on, although it’s the only way for sexually active women to take steps on their own initiative to avoid sexually transmitted infections. In the U.S., prices ranged from $1.15 to $2.75 apiece, depending on the means of distribution.

Meanwhile, marketing for the female condom was inadequate, by most accounts. ...

So what is AIDS Inc doing to rectify the omissions of gays and anal sex from the FDA's approval and the news accounts? Let's start with the supposedly cutting-edge Stop AIDS Project of San Francisco. Their site says nothing about the developments this week, but they are highlighting the continuing fallout over gay marriage and Prop 8.

The group is promoting a fundraiser with porn stars, so I guess I can't expect them to also devote attention and energy to the FDA and the manufacturer forgetting about HIV prevention needs of gay men.

What about the much more financially endowed behemoth SF AIDS Foundation? Not a word on their site, even from the perspective of the FDA decision this week is a solid advance for woman and girls around the globe.

Same must be said about the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City. However, GMHC did issue a release about Gov. Patterson appointing a lesbian to the appellate court, but the agency doesn't mention how the appointment stop HIV infections.

Over at the Foundation for AIDS Research, formerly known as AmFAR, they are also silent on Reality and the FDA moves lately.

Are Washington-based gay advocacy professional and lobbyists at all concerned about this? Both the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force are equally silent.

The gay and straight mainstream media are also strangely mute about Reality for gay men. The Advocate magazine's site ran news brief from the AP wire, and failed to tell gay readers why this was of importance to them. If a gay news magazine can't be bothered to fill in what the AP wire service has omitted, who in the gay community will do that?

A Google news search didn't turn up one story on the female condom this week that dared to mention gay men.

If only we gays had an effective media watchdog to mount a campaign to work with gay and straight media to end the silence about gay anal sex, the FDA and the HIV-preventing Reality barrier.

Instead, we have GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamtion, a lapdog to the celebrities of Hollywood, focusing on its navel. GLAAD this week put out two releases, the first about searching for a new executive director and the second about the celebrities attending the group's next glittering gala. Yawn.

With so much silence and laziness on the part of the well-staffed and well-endowed, financially speaking, AIDS Inc and Gay Inc organizations right now about Reality for gays and stopping new HIV and STD infections, it's no wonder the FDA and the anal condom manfacturer are under no pressure to change their thinking and help sexually active gay men.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog

scixual said...

Absolutely right. I don't know what more to do about it, though.

The so-called "female" condoms are a great invention.