Here below you can read the first part of chapter 18 of the Textbook on Homosexuality by Gay Project, you can easily download it here, absolutely free, unfortunately at the moment only in Italian:
The chapter can also be heard in voice (only in Italian) on the Gay Project Radio website, at:
From “GAY PROJECT HOMOSEXUALITY TEXTBOOK” – CHAP. 18
GAYS AND PREVENTION
It has been rightly pointed out that sex education cannot be reduced to alerting young people to the risks associated with sexuality (unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases) but must take the fundamental task of contributing to individual well-being increasing the value of the pleasure as a means to improve the quality of life. Certainly we cannot disagree with such a statement, however, it remains that, in particular about sexual education of gay guys, the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases plays an absolutely fundamental role. Let us now try to understand why.
We start from data updated to 2012, which come from the Italian Higher Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità):
In Italy in 2011, there are 94.146 cases of HIV infections treated (HIV-positive and AIDS), adding the estimated share of unaware HIV-positive people, the number rises to 156.910.
The causes of transmission of the virus are divided as follows:
37.2% heterosexual relationships
28.5% injective users of substances
27.7% homosexual relationships between males
At first glance one gets the impression that heterosexual relationships are now even more dangerous than homosexual ones but it should be kept in mind that heterosexuals are about 92% of the population, while homosexual males are about 4%, so 92% of population, composed of heterosexuals, contributes 37.2% to the total number of infections, while 4% of the population, composed of homosexual males, contributes 27.7%. As a result, male homosexuals have a statistical probability of becoming infected with HIV which is 17.3 times higher than that of heterosexuals. The number 17.13 represents the so-called risk ratio gay on hetero for male subjects in Italy, but if we look at Europe, the risk ratio goes well beyond this number. In essence, statistically the risk of contracting HIV for gay males is “much” higher than for straight males.
That’s why, for gays, education to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases is absolutely essential.
Obviously it is doctors’ competence to explain in detail the techniques of disease prevention and therefore it is right to refer to the site of the Ministry of health that contains updated information shared by the scientific community. The Internet addresses of the site of the Ministry of Health and of the most accredited Organizations dealing with the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases can be found at the end of this chapter.
I would like to proceed now, on the basis of the experience gained in Gay Project, to analyze three different documents pertaining to the issue of prevention related to different age groups and different personal situations. The first document, very brief, regards the younger boys and their approach to sexuality and prevention, the second is a testimony of how we can move from a substantially dissipated life, spent in the search for false satisfactions, to a life lived with a very solid moral commitment. The third document concerns the fear of being HIV-positive that hangs a guy 19 years old but also witnesses a beautiful friendship born between two gay guys with the only purpose of doing a stretch of their own road together with the certainty of not being alone.
So let’s start from the approach to sexuality of the very young guys.
It happens to me, even if not very frequently, to chat with very young guys who are becoming aware of their being gay. The contents of these chats are often very different from the typical chat content with older guys. With the younger guys I often find myself faced with the need to make people understand:
1) that being gay has nothing to do with “doing this or that” in terms of sex, but it means in the first place to love another guy,
2) that the exasperated research of sexuality in too early age is not a sign of affective maturity but exactly the opposite,
3) that sexuality is not a game,
4) that the couple sexuality is substantially different from masturbation because it is not about dealing with one’s own fantasies but with a real guy and with his psychological reality, that is about creating serious affective relationships,
5) that feelings need time to grow and a guy who, as soon as he knows you in chat, tells you that he is in love with you, isn’t really looking for you but just for a bit of sex,
6) that having sexual intercourses can entail serious risks to health and that the use of condom is always and absolutely essential,
7) that in networked contacts it is necessary to be cautious, we must avoid in the most absolute way to give unknown people cell phone numbers, telephone numbers, home addresses or other elements for personal identification.
If on the one hand it is natural that very young guys tend to explore sexuality, there is on the other the risk that “curiosity” becomes the only or the main motivation towards sexuality. From the interviews it is clear that the youngest gay guys have practically no comparison with reliable adult people on the subject of sexuality and homosexuality in particular. A lot of guys are very shy and embarrassed so that a dialogue (that is, a two-way conversation) is in fact impossible, usually I’m the only one who speaks trying to expose the contents that seem to me of greater interest on the basis of the few words exchanged with the interlocutor. In some cases, about 50%, we get to an open dialogue but not immediately, and it is clear that the guys are not used to talk about sexuality in a serious way. In some cases a climate of trust is created and the dialog becomes less theoretical and much more personal.
When very young guys, who start by setting up all the talk on matters of sexual techniques, feel stopped and brought back to a more serious dimension, or run away or radically change their tone. Those who run away probably do not have the maturity necessary to understand that being gay is something that involves the deep emotional life or perhaps of that deep emotional life they don’t yet feel the need and are stuck to the phase purely exploratory of sexuality. Those who don’t run away but change their tone come to a serious and personalized dialogue. These guys, who certainly have a gay affective dimension already quite defined, don’t try to enhance it spontaneously, but instinctively prefer the sexual dimension by considering it more adult, for them sexuality is still subordinated to the anxiety of growing and sometimes they are amazed by the fact that I give so much importance to the gay affective dimension and that I consider it fundamental, what they consider quite strange, at least at the beginning.
Many guys, even very young, in their anxiety of experimentation of sexuality go far beyond masturbation and begin to mentally build the idea that they must “try with a guy”. The idea of the experiment is sometimes dominant. The couple sexual experience is considered a sort of sexual license of adult life. The “trying” is reduced, however, to try a technique, and the emotional dimension is completely marginalized. In some situations I found myself in front of very young guys who boasted a certain sexual experience and spoke with pride about the number of sexual intercourses they had had and about the sexual practices they had experienced (more or less credible) as it was a real Curriculum to be presented to a competition.
Stopped by me in a drastic way, however, they showed an unexpected will of dialogue. Basically they were facing, probably for the first time, an adult vision of sexuality that in some way fascinated them. In the face of expressions such as “my friends have done it”, or “why not?”, Or “gays do it” I often reacted in a strong way and then tried to resume the conversation calmly. The key thing in chats with very young guys is to listen and make them get to the conclusions by themselves.
Very often, with very young guys I tackle the subject of caution, both in terms of the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and in terms of prudence on the net. It is clear that no one has ever talked to these guys in any way even minimally serious about these things and that they have absolutely no perception of risk. My insistence on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases has sometimes been the cause of the interruption of dialogue with young guys who didn’t like such things and considered them a just form of moralism aimed only at terrorizing guys to put them in mind that sex is a bad thing. In some cases, following my speech on the use of condoms, I found myself faced with paradoxical answers followed by the abandonment of the chat, as in the following little dialogue between a 16-year-old (his nickname is Nofear).
Nofear – I met him in chat, he’s thirty years old but is very strong, with him we do everything
Project – but always protected?
Nofear – that is?
Project – with condoms
Nofear – of course no condom, I don’t like such things, with a condom you lose the best
Project – do you realize what you say? Look, it’s dangerous
Nofear – those who are not risking don’t even win …
Project – wait … let’s try to reason
Nofear – if you want to preach, please go preach to somebody else, hi
In essence from the chats with the very young guys it is clear that they are completely abandoned by the adult world and that their sexual education, as a comparison with responsible adults on issues related to sexuality, homosexuality and in particular the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, practically doesn’t exist at all.
We now come to the second document, it is an email I received from a gay doctor on 11/27/2011.
“Hi Project, reading your blog I had a jolt of pride and it happens to me very rarely. I am 43 years old and experienced a lot of things that you would not like. I have been publicly declared for a very long time, or better I can say that I have been publicly declared and have passed through the complete succession of what you call, with many elegance, things labeled gay. Fortunately for me I managed to save my health and this comforts me because there are people who have been much less lucky than me.
When I was 18/20 years old internet practically did not exist yet, and I had made my own ideas, a little as you say, the frenzy of trying, believing that going into the circle would have facilitated things and in a sense it was true but from other points of view it was destructive, first of all the news that I was gay quickly spread throughout the city, a small city in the northern Italy where gossip and hypocrisy are always the masters. Fortunately, I was studying in another city and I finished my studies, but when I started the profession I had huge problems because everyone ran away from me (I’m a doctor) and I had to change city, I had to start all over again, not to mention the terrible recriminations on the part of my family that treated me like an idiot without remedy, which pushed me even more to leave.
In the new city, after a while I started going to clubs again, because it had almost become a drug. I met people out of mind that in some cases made me really scared and after five years I had to go again to a different, smaller city, here there were no clubs but I started with chats and even there it was a torment, just like a drug, I knew some guys in the chat, then we met, did a bit of sex and then they disappeared and were reckless guys that when I talked about condoms took me for crazy. I had the frenzy of sex, I was more than 30 years old, even almost more than 32, but I spent all my free time looking for contacts. I felt alone, and I was alone, the relations with my family were completely inexistent. My father and mother no longer made themselves heard after I left home, I called them but they did not answer me deliberately.
The only points of reference were the guys I knew only for sex, one in particular I had fallen in love with, he told me so many sweet things and was a very nice guy but he wanted to come to live with me, which I could not do because I would have ended up not to work anymore and to create a mess of problems with all the people I had around, then he disappeared, but before disappearing I vomited all the possible insults against me, that I was a worm, one who does not have the courage to be what he is and above all that I was a starving man, because he liked to make the good life and with me he could not do it for sure.
This story lasted three years and left me with a sense of rejection and very strong bitterness. Over the years, the young guys stopped contacting me and only the fifties were looking for me but they were people out of mind much more than me, depressed to hospitalize, who thought they were young boys and tried to behave as if they really were, even married men, even people with diseases with a religious background, a variety of humanity that I did not even think could exist. They arrived to offer me money in exchange for sex. One was sick, had a strong asthma and I convinced him to be hospitalized because he was a high-risk patient.
In August 2009 I said “It’s enough!” and deleted all the gay contacts I had.
I changed my mobile number and I threw myself completely into my work, practically I went back to university to do a very demanding and very long specialization that leads me now to deal with aids, I finished the first two years and started the third, it’s a thing very serious and I’m completely committed to this, now I work part time and I earn very little money and all I earn goes for specialization. I am really interested in my studies and I think for the first time that I have made the right choice. I don’t tell you what I see in the hospital, there is a really desperate need for people to take care of these things, I have been reborn and I have found my way. There is a lot to do and not so much in Italy or in Europe but especially in Africa where AIDS, without medicines and in the midst of total ignorance, is a real scourge.
Days ago I found “gay project” just looking for sites that deal with prevention and then I put myself to read also the rest. Project, don’t let the guard down! What you do makes sense. Life has a meaning and it is not in seeking sex but in giving love without conditions, I understood it late but fortunately I understood it. Being gay makes sense and I think that being gay and having experienced everything I’ve been through is the real spring of my underlying motivation. I told you my story in short, publish it if you want, I would like it. Permit me a professional notation, never abandon the discourse on prevention because they are very few to do it and there is a huge need of them. I’ll add the link to the hiv and aids page of the Ministry of Health:
http://www.salute.gov.it/hiv/hiv.jsp which remains a fundamental reference point for finding serious information, even for doctors (see the updating of the guidelines). I would like to devote some time to the forum but now I have other goals for which I ask you to keep my privacy
The third document is particularly touching and, beyond the theme centered on the fear of HIV, it allows to understand the spiritual depths of gay guys and what it means to love each other. This is an email I received on July 4th, 2007 and I published the same day (in Italian) on the old Gay Project Forum.
The name of one of the protagonists of the story has been replaced with an X for reasons of privacy.
“First I met X through words. For me they were important, they made me feel good and I did not even understand why, I only read and reread them. I made sure to get some courage and ask his msn even if with an incredible difficulty because for the things that I really care about I am very shy and perhaps also of a crazy cowardice. Talking with him gave me so much! He has his own way of seeing things, maybe strange and difficult to understand but he always managed to get me out of my depression, in one way or another gave me a deep sense of serenity. I had a boulder inside, something that I had hidden inside me for years and that took everything away from me. I never thought I’d ever have the strength to tell it anyone. Instead, it came spontaneous to tell X about it and it made me feel good.
Being gay for me has always been an unacceptable and monstrous thing, not the feelings but just the idea of sex. I have a lousy family. They don’t care about me, I have always been the classic useless baggage, after their divorce I have been continually tossed about here and there. No affection, no attention, no dialogue. In reality it was as if I wasn’t there, if I’m away from home they even notice it and when I am taken into consideration it is only to impose, order, claim, offend or worse to beat be. For years I have been depressed and for two years it’s really worse, so that I have no more friendships, I dropped them all, I was rejected at school, I’m always home alone. No, they don’t notice it at all. I’ve always felt lonely, since I realized that maybe I was gay too, it was a crescendo. But now I’m also used to it, because you know when you live without hope, loneliness is not so bad anymore.
But this is not the boulder. What I confided to X is another thing: when I was 14 a guy much older than me, who sometimes attended the company of my cousin and that everyone knew he was gay has abused me. That’s why I hate gay sex. When I fell in love with a guy for the first time two years ago I thought it was for that abuse. I suffered too much. I felt as if something impure had crept into me. For me it was like a contagion. A curse that clung to me. But this is not the worst thing, the worst thing is the fact that one year and a half after what he had done to me I found out from my cousin that the guy was HIV-positive and I knew he had not used any precautions with me. I never saw him again and I didn’t speak to him anymore to know if I too could have become HIV-positive, but then I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do it.
I still perfectly remember what I experienced finding it out. It’s a bit like dying. I was holding the form for enrolling in a creative writing course that I was very fond of and it was the first time I had fought so hard to get something at my house, I started ripping it into smaller and smaller pieces and it was a bit how to tear up my future. Since then, the ice has not left me anymore. I continued to live but only on the margins because everything made me suffer too much.
The doubt I kept buried inside me, as deep as possible, was something I never thought of but that anyway stood there and poisoned everything. Since then I have always been inconclusive, defeatist and submissive throughout. I heard others talk about what they wanted to do and I did not say anything, I did not think about anything. Lately with some I had a little loose. I thought about what I really wanted to do, I did some programs, to a guy with whom I spoke on msn one day I also said that I would go to see him this summer. A little I believed, I hoped it but then my enthusiasm ended in nothing. Yes, in my heart it was like I was already dead.
Talking with X made me feel good. He has a boyfriend and they are very much in love, he is happy and fulfilled, but even if he did not know me at all, even if talking to me was always so difficult and painful, I think, he was looking for me and if he didn’t find me or it was me who did not make me available because I was too depressed, he still wrote me even just a few words that made me feel that at least one person was really interested. Yes, he always devoted so much time and attention to me, a constant and sincere thought, was the only one to really do it and in the most disinterested way possible, to give me a little of himself and without receiving or wanting anything in return. I thought a thousand times that it was very strange that a person could be like that and even more with someone like me. But he is special and UNIQUE.
In the end he also managed to convince me that I had to go and take the test. He did it telling me that he would accompany me. I waited to finish my graduation exam and immediately the next day we met through msn and he came to take me in the city where I live. When I saw him I could not believe it was really him, although I could see that he was really beautiful even from the avatar. Because X is very beautiful but the point is that there are a lot of guys I don’t say very beautiful but certainly beautiful, but X is a thing apart. And then he has incredible eyes, which one would think there could not be two eyes like that. Nobody after looking at them, even the most materialist, could ever be able to think that there is no soul. I fell in love with him immediately.
It’s hallucinating but as soon as I saw him, I no longer thought I was going to take the HIV test, that is, I thought it was a secondary thing. I was too busy with him. I immediately felt beautiful feelings and for me to try them was a natural and right thing. And yes, he also attracted me physically and very much, for me it was really too embarrassing but I managed to hide it well and for the first time it did not disgust me, even that was beautiful and natural and it was fine that way. To take the test we went to a rather distant city, because I wanted so, a stupid thing I know but it made me feel more anonymous and sure, he brought me there by car. I thought I had to go fasting for blood collection, when X knew it smiled to me, I was very pale for anxiety and agitation, he told me “It’s not that you go down right now?” And while we waited, he held my hand tight all the time, under a newspaper folded to the side so that no one could see and I was not embarrassed.
As soon as he got out of the clinic he put his arm around my shoulders and took me to breakfast. But after eating instead of feeling better I was very bad. I was struck in the harshest way by the image the nurse who was taking my blood sample, the latex gloves, the way he sat with his torso all the way back and how he barely touched me, just the indispensable, but above all by the vision of my blood. From that day on which I knew, the thought of my blood has always obsessed me. It was a nightmare that I sometimes did at night; my blood suddenly splashed on my schoolmates while I was in class, the terror of their gaze remained on my mind all day so that I thought I saw it in their eyes. I was afraid and disgusted with my blood. And now that I had seen it go out I felt crazy.
At that point I burst inside. I began to think only of the one thing that felt real to me, of what I could have inside me, of the fact that I had to accompany myself to this foreign and enemy thing for the time that remained to me to live, that I would be a danger, that I would continue to be alone until the end, that I would be kept at a distance but above all that I would have kept everything and everyone at a distance from me not to have to suffer even more. And all this at only 19 years old. Nothing behind and nothing in front. One passes graduation and should start planning his long-distance future. In my case, I felt it made no sense, never had a sense for me. X stared at me but I did not say anything to him and as we walked I moved away and moved further and further.
At one point he stopped me and hugged me without speaking any word and hugged me so tightly! I just said “You know, I always knew I was already dead.” X shook me strongly and made me sick and said “Don’t be silly!! Even if it were, life doesn’t end for this, only changes.” I don’t know how long he hugged me, I wanted to cry but I could not and it’s bizarre because I’m crying every single fucking day, yet at that moment I was dry and that dry was too bad for me. But at a certain point I began to feel X’s body, his breath against me, his warmth, his smell. I held my breath and focused on the beating of his heart to hear it with my ear but also with my skin. I felt an inexpressible yearning that rose from my stomach, something so beautiful and intense that it almost hurt and then, in short, I had an erection. Even if I continued to feel that I was HIV-positive, I felt even more strongly that I was wanting X with all my might and I felt that I was willing to do anything to have him close to me, even being HIV-positive.
I know it seems absurd but in these three months I have discovered that it is real life that is absurd, not that imagined. I tried to move away from him, but it was too embarrassing, and then I thought that rightly he could take it badly. But he did not let me go, and even told me “Do you see it? Your body knows that you are alive and you want to stay alive.” We were still embraced, someone looked at us badly, someone said something. I did not care at all, I would have liked to stay that way forever. X left me at some point and I felt a great emptiness inside, so I spontaneously told him that his boyfriend is the luckiest person on earth, he blushed, smiled and said “Believe me it’s me the one lucky to have him.” I thought he would take me back, in the end I had done what I had to do, instead X still wanted to stay with me. We walked around the city, we did not talk much but we simply walked, sometimes we sat somewhere. We went for lunch but my stomach was closed for him even though I lied to him and said it was still for the test.
X is so beautiful that I will never stop to look at him, has a smile of continuous light in the eyes and then he is sweet and affectionate in words but also in the gestures in a way that makes you feel protected and warm inside. While we were around, he often showed me things that I would never have seen on my own and surprised me and moved me in that way that he has all of his own to look at the world and be happy for certain things that never interest anyone. Every now and then he had a gesture toward me very sweet as touching my arm or a light squeeze of my hand, a separate communication with which he made me understand that he was there. In the evening he took me back to the place where we had arranged to meet.
I was all upset, X told me that he would come back with me to take the result of the test, because they give it to you after a few days and you have to go and pick it up. I felt very sad with that sense of emptiness that grew bigger and bigger. X looked at me, he was tense, worried and said “All right?”. Then I thought how bad all that could hurt him. I had glued on him weeks and weeks of anguish and depression, mine, and he had never avoided all this, but a wonderful creature like him did not even deserve the billionth part of it. I felt petty and selfish in the worst way. I tried to tell him that everything was fine, that I was better but it was evident that he did not believe it at all.
However, we said goodbye and in doing so he gave me a light kiss on the mouth. It was a kiss of a very beautiful sweetness, it had no sexual value, it just said what no words could explain. That he was not afraid of me even though I could be HIV-positive and that I would have had from him anyway the availability, affection and warmth of a true friendship. Nobody has ever given me something more beautiful. That kiss completely filled my soul, I think that I will always carry that feeling inside me. at that moment I thought, and I still think now, that at least I have a beautiful thing and no one can take it away from me, it will be mine until the end.”
At the end of this wonderful document, which I am particularly attached to because I knew the protagonists, I am happy to let you know that the analysis confirmed that the guy who wrote the email above was HIV-negative.
Questions and answers on AIDS and HIV (from the Ministry of health):
If you like, you can join the discussion on this post on Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/T-gay-guys-and-prevention-of-sexually-transmitted-diseases