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 through enhancement of sexual pleasure as a means of improving the quality of life. I think I cannot disagree with this statement, but it remains, however, that in particular about gay sexual education, the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases plays an absolutely fundamental role. Let’s try to understand why.
We start from data updated to 2012, which come from the Italian “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 drug users, 27.7% homosexual relationships between males
At first sight it seems that heterosexual intercourses are now even more dangerous than homosexual ones but it should be kept in mind that heterosexuals are about 92% of the population, while male homosexuals are about 4%, so 92% of the population, composed of heterosexuals, contributes 37.2% to the total number of infections, while 4% of the population, composed of homosexual males, contributes with 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 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 heterosexual males. This is why, for gays, education for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases is absolutely essential.
Obviously it is the 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 which contains updated information, shared by the scientific community. The Internet addresses of the site of the Ministry of Health and of the most accredited associations that deal with the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases can be very easily found on the web.
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 one 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 over a guy 19 years old but also witnesses a beautiful friendship born between two gay guys with no other purpose than that to do together a stretch of their own road with the certainty of not being alone.
So let’s start from the approach to sexuality of a very young guys. It happens to me, even if not 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 them understand that:
1) being gay has nothing to do with “doing this or that” in terms of sexual practices, 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 essentially related to personal fantasies but to a real guy and with his psychological reality, and aims at creating serious emotional relationships,
5) that the feelings need time to grow and that people, just known in chat, who say they have fallen in love with you, don’t are really looking for you but just a for a bit of sex,
6) that sex can involve serious health risks and that condom use is always and absolutely needed,
7) that on the net contacts must be prudent, we must avoid in the most absolute way to give unknown people cell phone numbers, landline numbers, home addresses or other elements suitable for personal identification. If on one side it’s natural that very young guys tend to explore sexuality, on the other side there is the risk that the “curiosity” dimension becomes the only or the main motivation that leads towards sexuality.
From the interviews it is clear that the youngest gay guys have virtually no dialog with reliable adults on the subject of sexuality and homosexuality in particular. A lot of guys are very shy and embarrassed and when a dialogue (i.e. talking in two) is in fact impossible, I usually speak only trying to expose the contents that seem to me of greater interest for those guys on the basis of the few words exchanged with my interlocutors. In some cases, about 50%, it’s possible to come 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 discourse becomes less theoretical and much more personal.
When the very young guys, who start 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 don’t have the maturity needed to understand that being gay is something that involves the deep emotional life of a guy or perhaps of that deep emotional life don’t feel yet the need and are yet in the purely exploratory phase 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 well 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 affective dimension and consider it fundamental: they instead consider strange this reasoning, at least at the beginning. Many guys, even very young, in their anxiety of experimentation with sexuality go far beyond masturbation and begin to mentally build the idea that they must “try with a guy”. The experiment idea is sometimes dominant. The couple sexual experience is considered a kind of recognition of having reached a fully adult personal dimension. The “experiment” , however, limits itself to trying 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 showed techniques and numbers of relationships they had had (more or less credible) as a real curriculum to present to a competition. Stopped by me in a drastic way, however, they showed an unexpected willingness to dialogue. Basically they were facing, probably for the first time, an adult vision of sexuality that in some way fascinated them.
Faced with expressions such as “my friends have done it”, or “why not?”, Or “gays do it” I often reacted strongly and then tried to calmly resume the conversation. The key thing in chats with very young guys is to listen and make sure they come to their conclusions.
Very often, with young boys, I tackle the issue of prudence, both in terms of the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and in terms of prudence on the web. 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 some young guys who didn’t want to hear such things at all and considered it a form of moralism aimed only at terrorizing boys in order to put in their 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 dialogue between me and a sixteen year old guy (Without fear).
– Without fear – I met him on a chat, he’s thirty years old but he’s strong, with him we do everything
– Project – but always protected?
– Without fear – that is?
– Project – with a condom
– Without fear – condom? I do not like those things, you miss the best
– Project – do you realize what you say? Without condom it’s dangerous
– Without fear – those who don’t risk don’t gain!
– Project – wait. . . let’s try to reason
– Without fear – if you want to preach, you can preach for some other guy. Bye!
In essence from the chats with the very young guys it can be deduced that they are completely abandoned by the adult world and that their sexual education, intended as a comparison with responsible adults on issues related to sexuality, homosexuality, and in particular to the prevention of sexual transmitted diseases is practically non-existent.
Now we come to the second document, it is an email I received from a gay doctor on November 27th 2011.
Dear Project, reading your blog I had a jolt of pride and it happens very rarely. I’m 43 years old and I have behind me a life that you would not appreciate. I have been publicly declared for a very long time, we can say that as a gay publicly out I have gone through everything you define, with a sort of detachment, things labeled gay. Fortunately for me I managed to save my health and this comforts me because there are people who have gone much worse than me.
When I was 18/20 years old internet practically didn’t exist, and I had my own ideas, a little as you say, the frenzy of trying, I believed that entering 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 everywhere in 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 an addiction. 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, where there were no gay clubs, but the chats started and even there it was a torment, an obsession, I knew some guys in the chat, we met, did a bit of sex and then they disappeared and were reckless guys who, when I talked about condoms, took me for crazy.
I had the frenzy of sex, I was more than 30 years old, even more than 35, 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 didn’t 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, but it was impossible to realize 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 he vomited all the insults possible against me, that I was a worm, one who doesn’t 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 strong bitterness. Over the years, young guys became progressively less interested in me and only the fifty years old were looking for me but they were sex-addicted people even worse than me or depressed to be hospitalized, who thought they were boys and tried to give themselves a tone, even straight married, even people with diseases with a religious background, a variety of humanity that I didn’t even think could exist. They even 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 at high risk.
In August of 2009 I said: “It’s enough!” I deleted all the gay contacts I had. I changed my mobile phone number and I threw myself completely into my work, practically I went back to university to do a very demanding and very long specialization school that leads me to deal with AIDS, I finished the first two years and just started the third, it’s a thing very serious and feel completely committed, now I work part time and I earn very little money and all I earn goes for specialization school. I’m 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, I was just looking for sites that deal with prevention and then I started to read the rest. Don’t let the guard down, Project! What you do makes sense. Life has a meaning that doesn’t consist in seeking sex but in giving love without conditions, I understood it late but fortunately I understood it. Being gay makes sense, I think being gay and experience all that I have experienced 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 very few speaks about prevention today, and there is a huge need of such persons. I add here 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 update of the guidelines). I’d like to spend some time on the forum but now I have other goals, that’s why I ask you to save my privacy.
The third document is particularly touching and, beyond the theme centered on the fear of HIV, it allows us to understand the spiritual depths of gay guys and what it means to love each other. It’s an email I received on July 4, 2007 and published the same day on the old Gay Project forum.
“I first met him through words. For me they were important, they made me feel good and I didn’t 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’m of a shyness and perhaps also of an extreme 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 me, something that I had to endure for years and that took everything from me. I never thought I’d ever have the strength to tell anyone. Instead, to X it came spontaneous to tell it it and it made me feel good.
Being gay for me has always been an unacceptable and monstrous thing, but not the feelings but just the idea of sex. I have a lousy family. They are not interested in 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 is as if I’m not there, if I’m away from home, they don’t even notice it and when I am taken into consideration it is only to impose, order, claim, offend or worse to be beaten. For years I have been depressed and for two years now worse and worse, so much so that I have no more friends, I dropped them all, I have been rejected, I’m always home alone. No, they don’t even notice it. I’ve always felt lonely, since I realized that maybe I was also gay, 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 I had to endure.
What I confided to X is another thing: that when I was 14 a guy much older than me, who sometimes attended the company of my cousin and that everyone knew to be gay has abused me. That’s why I hate gay sex. When I fell in love for the first time two years ago with a guy 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 fact is that one year and a half after what he had done to me I found out from my cousin that that guy was HIV-positive and I knew he had not used any precautions with me. I have never seen him after and I have never been able to speak to him to know if I could have become positive too, but I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do it. I still remember perfectly what I felt at the moment of finding it out. It’s a bit like dying. I had in my hands the form for enrolling in a creative writing course I was very interested in and it was the first time I had fought so hard to get something at my house, I started ripping the form 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. I kept the doubt buried inside me, as deep as possible, it was something I never thought of but that anyway stood there and poisoned everything. Since then I have always been inconclusive, defeatist and submissive in anything. I heard the others talk about what they wanted to do and I did not say anything, I did not think about anything. Lately I have let myself be dragged by someone. I thought about what I really wanted to do, I did some programs, to a guy with whom I talked on msn one day I also said that I would go to see him this summer. A little I believed it, I hoped it but my hopes vanished. Yes, in my heart it was like being already dead.
Talking with X has done me too well. He has a boyfriend and they are deeply in love with each other, he is happy and fulfilled, but even if he didn’t know me at all, if even talking to me was always so difficult and painful, I think, he was looking for me and if he didn’t find me or I avoided being found because I was too depressed, he wrote me anyway even a few words that made me feel that at least one person was really interested.
Yes, X always gave me so much time and attention, a constant and sincere thought, he was the only one to really do it and in the most disinterested way possible, to give me a little bit 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 made me accept it simply telling me that he would accompany me.
I waited for my graduation exam to finish and immediately, the next day, via msn we arranged to meet and he picked me up in the city where I live. When I saw him I couldn’t believe that it was really him even if, yes, that he was beautiful it was also evident through the avatar. Because X is beautiful, but the point is that guys, I don’t say so beautiful but beautiful, there may be, but X is a something different. He has incredible eyes, which one would think there couldn’t be two eyes like his. Nobody after looking at them, even the most materialistic person, could ever be able to think that there is no soul.
I fell immediately in love with him. It’s incredible, but as soon as I saw him, I no longer thought I was going to take the HIV test, that is, yes, I thought it but it was a secondary thing. I was too busy with him. I immediately felt beautiful feelings, and for me to feel them was a natural and right thing. And yes, he also attracted me physically and a lot, for me this was really too embarrassing but I managed to hide it well and for the first time it didn’t disgust me, it was beautiful and natural, and it was fine that way.
To do the test we went to a rather far city, because I wanted it so, a stupid thing, I know, but it made me feel more anonymous and sure, he brought me there. I thought I had to go fasted for blood collection, when he knew it, X smiled and because I was very pale because of the anxiety, he said “It’s not that you go down?” And while we were waiting he kept my hand tight all the time, under a newspaper folded to the side so nobody could see and I was not embarrassed.
As soon as he got out of the surgery he put his arm around my shoulders and took me to breakfast. After eating, in place of feeling better I felt very bad. I was struck by the harsh image of the nurse who was taking my blood, the latex gloves, the way he sat with his torso all the way back and how he barely touched me, the indispensable, but above all the vision of my blood. From that day when I knew, the thought of my blood has always obsessed me, it was a nightmare that sometimes bothered me 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 as I thought to see it in their eyes. I was afraid and disgusted of my blood. And now that I had seen it go out I felt crazy.
At that point I broke out 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 as long as was left to me, that I would have been a danger, that I would continue to be alone and stay so 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 suffer even more, and all this at 19 years only.
Nothing behind and nothing in front. One passes graduation exams and should start planning his long-distance future. In my case, I felt it made no sense, it never had made sense for me.
X stared at me but I didn’t 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 and hugged me so tightly! I just said “You know I always knew I was already dead.” X shook me vigorously and hurt me 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 for to many years, but 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 wanted X with all of myself and I felt that I was willing to do anything to have him close to me, even accepting to be HIV-positive. I know it seems absurd but in these three months I have discovered that it is real life that is absurd, not the imagined one.
I tried to move away, it was too embarrassing and then I thought that rightly he could take it badly. But he didn’t let me and told me “Do you see it? Your body knows that you are alive and you want to stay alive.” We stayed still embraced. Someone looked at us badly, someone must have said something. I didn’t care at all, I would have liked to stay that way forever. X at some point broke away from me 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 who is lucky to have him.” I thought he would take me back home, in the end what I had to do had been done, instead X still wanted to stay with me.
We walked around the city, we didn’t talk much but we simply walked, sometimes we sat somewhere. We went for lunch but my stomach was closed because of him even though I lied to him and said it was still because of the test. X is so beautiful that you will never stop to look at him, has a smile of continuous light in his eyes and then he’s 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 with this way of looking 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 we would go together to take the test result, because they give it to you after a few days and you have to go and pick it up in person. I felt very sad with that sense of emptiness that grew bigger and bigger. X looked at me, was tense, worried and said “All right?”
Then I thought how badly that day could have hurt him. I had charged on him weeks and weeks of anguish and depression, mine, and he had never subtracted, but a wonderful creature like him didn’t even deserve the billionth part of all that. I felt petty and selfish in the worst way. I tried to tell him that everything was fine, that I was better but I could see that he didn’t believe it at all.
We greeted each other and in doing so he gave me a light kiss on the mouth. It was a kiss of a beautiful sweetness, it had no sexual meaning, it just said what no words could explain. That he was not afraid of me even though I could be HIV positive and the availability, affection and warmth of a true friendship that from him I would have had anyway. Nobody has ever given me something more beautiful. That kiss completely filled my soul, I think I will always carry that feeling inside me. At that moment as it happens now I thought that at least one beautiful thing I have it and nobody can take it away from me, it will be mine until the end.”
At the end of this beautiful document, which I’m particularly attached to because I knew the protagonists, I’m happy to let you know that the analysis confirmed that the guy who wrote the email above was HIV-negative.
If you like, you can join the discussion on this post on Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/T-gays-and-prevention-through-tree-documents