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AIDS activists say condom distribution in gay venues has nearly disappeared

AIDS activists say condom distribution in gay venues has nearly disappeared

Most gay bars in New York City have stopped stocking free condoms, a dramatic turnaround from the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic when condoms were plentiful at most gay venues, The New York Times reports. HIV prevention literature, which also was at one time available at nearly every gay bar and club in the city, is now also increasingly difficult to find. Some AIDS activists say the disappearance of condoms from gay bars is an alarming indicator of the gay community's dwindling commitment to fighting the spread of HIV. They say that a growing sense that antiretroviral drugs have reduced the threat of HIV disease coupled with safer-sex burnout is fueling a rise in unprotected sex among gay men and a growing disinterest among gay community groups and businesses in staying active in HIV prevention efforts. But many AIDS experts say the challenge to keep gay men practicing safer sex extends well beyond street-level outreach in bars and clubs where condoms and informational brochures are handed out. "Just because folks are well-informed doesn't mean they'll necessarily make the wisest choices in terms of their health," Ronald O. Valdiserri, who oversees HIV prevention programs at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Times. "This is true of all humanity, not just gay men." Instead, many AIDS advocates are calling for more comprehensive HIV prevention efforts that attempt to get at the roots of why gay men engage in risky sex, including looking at psychological issues associated with homosexuality. They say that the real driving forces behind risky sex are loneliness, self-hatred, and alienation. At the opposite end of the spectrum are AIDS advocates who say the key to boosting safer sex among gay men is to stress personal responsibility, remind people that living with HIV is difficult and potentially even life-threatening, and stigmatize unprotected sex. They also say drug companies should stop running advertisements for anti-HIV drugs that suggest that all HIV-positive people lead carefree and perfectly healthy lives.

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