Originally published on Advocate.com January 09 2004 12:00 AM ET
Seattle gay men are experiencing a cultural divide over a manifesto issued in October that claims gay men need to take more responsibility for sexual activities that have led to rising HIV infection rates in the area, the Seattle Times reports. The number of newly reported HIV cases in the region increased 35% from 2001 to 2002 and were expected to rise an additional 16% in 2003. The manifesto, titled "A Community Manifesto: A New Response to HIV and STDs," prepared by community activists and gay leaders, calls on gay men in the city to protect themselves, their sex partners, and all gay men in the city. The manifesto refers to unprotected sex outside a monogamous relationship as unacceptable and in some cases even deems it an act of violence.
The manifesto has split Seattle's gay community between those supporting its call for greater sexual responsibility and those who believe it wrongly condemns men who have sex with men. The Gay City Health Project, one of the city's largest gay organizations, says the manifesto makes moral judgments about gay sex and that it unfairly criticizes those who engage in risky sex acts without considering the causes for those behaviors. Gay City instead believes nurturing the self-esteem of gay men will lead them to make better sexual choices, and that includes telling gay men that sex--even anonymous sex--is OK.
But many gay activists in the city, including nationally syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage, back the manifesto and say groups like Gay City go too far in endorsing sexual promiscuity, which in turn is fueling HIV infection rates. "There are some lost gay men out there who want and need guidelines on what is expected of them, so they go searching and are told, 'Everything goes, and the more reckless you are, the gayer you are,' " Savage told the Times. Gay men today don't need AIDS organizations saying, 'Go for it!' "