By | 2003-03-20T09:00:00-04:00 March 20th, 2003|Uncategorized|

At a time when infection rates are dropping overall, the recent increase in syphilis cases among men who have sex with men has state health officials and prevention experts rightly concerned.
The inevitable conclusion that can be drawn from the latest statistics is quite easy to grasp: Gay, bisexual and married men who occasionally like to “play with the boys” are letting down their guard and participating in unsafe sexual encounters.
Not only do such behavioral choices place members of our own community at risk, it also jeopardizes the health of unsuspecting girlfriends and wives who aren’t aware of their boyfriends’ and husbands’ extracurricular sexual activities.
And that needs to change.
Those of us old enough to recall the early days of the AIDS epidemic were pleased to see infection rates drop as more and more men heard what prevention experts were preaching: If you’re going to have sex, use a condom. And use it correctly!
But medical advances and the drop in AIDS-related deaths seem to have made many men complacent; they no longer see a need to practice safer sex.
What they’ve lost sight of is this: AIDS is still out there, and as we’re now graphically reminded, so, too, are other sexually transmitted diseases.
To help stop the spread of syphilis in its tracks, the Michigan Department of Community Health has come to the gay community and asked for our assistance. The Midwest AIDS Prevention Project is already on board working to create new programs that could be implemented shortly. Other community-based organizations are also expected to join the battle.
But others need to step up and be responsible members of the community, as well.
In particular, owners of our bars and bath houses – which have long been cherished, valuable and important parts of our community – should do all they can possibly do to prevent the spread of disease on their premises.
It’s no secret that sexual encounters take place at some of our bars and baths – many of those who contracted syphilis last year reported meeting their sexual partners there, as well as in some of the parks and on the Internet. But while not everyone may have told the truth – people do lie, after all – there’s enough anecdotal evidence gossiped throughout the community to support the findings of health department officials.
So we’re gratified to see that one such business has already gladly agreed to work with MAPP and state health officials. We believe that the Body Zone should be commended for taking a leadership role in the battle against syphilis, and we encourage other businesses – such as TNT Health Club and the bars – to join them.
Once again, we are responsible for our own destiny. And once again, we can prevail!

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