You can count on one hand the number of times a young, openly gay Hollywood actor has talked about HIV/AIDS in the last decade. In fact, you'd probably only need a couple of fingers. Zachary Quinto just boldly went where few gay thirty-somethings have gone before, talking passionately about how HIV is affecting his community, and he's getting dumped on for straying from the HIV/AIDS party line. I want to thank him for being one of the few that gives a shit, and for speaking out about gay men and HIV.
For the record, I'm a fan. Heck, I'm practically a Quinto stalker. Being a dedicated Trekker since the series started reruns in 1969, I've been under his sway since his first uttered "live long, and prosper." I admired his acting chops on stage in The Glass Menagerie, and froze up when he walked right past me at Anderson Cooper's 46th birthday party. So yeah, stop picking on my Zachary!
But seriously, here's what Mr. Quinto said to OUT Magazine that's raised hackles:
"I think there's a tremendous sense of complacency in the LGBT community," Quinto says, citing the rising number of HIV infections in adolescents. "AIDS has lost the edge of horror it possessed when it swept through the world in the '80s. Today's generation sees it more as something to live with and something to be much less fearful of. And that comes with a sense of, dare I say, laziness."
Quinto is similarly candid on prophylactic drugs, like PrEP, which many gay people have embraced as a long-awaited panacea. "We need to be really vigilant and open about the fact that these drugs are not to be taken to increase our ability to have recreational sex," he says. "There's an incredible underlying irresponsibility to that way of thinking...and we don't yet know enough about this vein of medication to see where it'll take us down the line."
Sure, there's some unhelpful finger-wagging here that won't win Quinto any brownie points with many young gay men, but can anyone deny that complacency is now a major driver of new HIV infections in this group? Most of us have learned the hard way that using the plague years to browbeat younger generations doesn't work, but hearing a 37-year-old reference those times should count for something. Quinto has learned his history, with evident respect, which puts him light-years ahead of most gay men his age.
His PrEP comments created the most stink. One wishes he hadn't ditched Spock's logic and love of science when discussing one of the most promising advances in the fight against HIV in years. But again, I'm amazed he mentioned it at all. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, only 26 percent of gay or bisexual men have even heard that there's a drug that prevents HIV infections.
Let's use this as a teachable moment. I'd love to introduce Quinto to many of the early adopters of PrEP. Most of them are wise beyond their years, and have spent more time than most thinking about their own health and the health of their community. They are the epitome of gay male responsibility.
What do you say, Zack? Let's talk.