In Malawi, 40,000 babies are born with HIV every year. Without any intervention, two-thirds of these children will not reach their first birthday. With the use of antiretrovirals, the transmission of HIV from mother to baby can be reduced, but many times the first step towards health is through the support of the community.
More distressing than the profound lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS among the 431 adult men who participated in the survey is the fact that it reveals a startling failure -- even an absence -- of HIV education among gay and bisexual men, despite the fact that we account for the nation's highest number of those living with or at risk for HIV.
As gay and bisexual men, it can be overwhelming -- and in some cases, downright exhausting -- to keep HIV at the front of our minds and on the tip of our tongues. But talking about it, with a friend, a doctor or a potential partner, can ease our anxieties and potentially change our thinking and our actions for the better.
I recently decided to be public about my use of PrEP in order to raise awareness about this relatively new tool for preventing HIV. It's important to encourage people at risk for HIV to talk to their medical providers about all the tools and methods available for preventing infection, including PrEP, and to choose the methods that are best for them.
If you make an informed decision to practice barebacking, then so be it. I can't say I will never do the same. However, short-term pleasure, a sense of belonging, and the excitement of abandoning homonormative sociosexual practices cannot be divorced from either a willful rejection of long-term health or a romanticized concept of what HIV infection leads to.
The idea is that using healthy, sexual images in HIV messaging will dilute the fear of contracting the virus and further increase the risk of infection for my peers and the younger gay men on the up and up. On its face, this argument makes sense. But make no mistake: It is completely and fundamentally flawed.