There was plenty of news last year regarding the alarming rise of newly confirmed cases of HIV infection among MSM or men who have sex with men (whether these men are straight, bisexual, or gay). Most people familiar with the situation seem to think that this is due to increased testing among affected populations and not necessarily because there where many people who were actually infected last year. Take note that it takes around 3-6 months after a person gets infected before the level of HIV antibodies become detectable and that it may take an average of 10 years before symptoms show. So this recent rise in detected cases does not necessarily correspond to a dramatic recent increase in infections as well. But still, the official tally of documented HIV cases (which is currently around 4,400) is most certainly underrepresented.
In the latest chapter to this ongoing saga, the past week or two has seen a blitz of news articles and news segments on TV about the supposed link between the Internet and this alarming rise in newly-documented HIV cases. For instance, this article on INQUIRER.net has Dr. Eric Tayag of the DOH National Epidemiology Center saying that there is a link between Internet usage and HIV/AIDS.
The Department of Health (DOH) has said Internet social networking sites have provided a venue for young people to find partners in risky sex that usually leads to cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the country.
This recent media blitz, while serving to highlight the need to address the problem, also leads to a lot of scaremongering and possibly unintended discrimination. These news reports have so incensed PinoyPoz, that he wrote a barrage of blog posts decrying the misleading reporting. (Go check out those posts, they’re quite educational.)
I said in my very first post that there are three things I consider pivotal in the modern history of gay and bisexual men. Two of these three are the emergence of HIV/AIDS and the rise of the Internet. I have never discussed about the link between these two things before in this blog and now we have mainstream media reporting on and discussing that very link.
Let’s face it: the Internet as a medium has revolutionized how we communicate with other people. Cyberspace has been a boon for lots of closeted PLUs in that it helped them realize that they are not alone, and that they can relate and talk to other like-minded people while remaining relatively anonymous and still in the closet. But in the same way, the Internet facilitates cruising, hooking up, and looking for casual sex, whether it be through IRC, social networking sites like PlanetRomeo, or blogs and online forums. In this day and age, it’s a rare gay person that hasn’t had sex which has not in any way been facilitated by the Internet.
I’m somehow a bit disturbed that my blog, Discreet Manila, might even be contributing to this link between Internet use and the spread of HIV/AIDS. I mean, here I am on the Internet dishing out tips on cruising and providing comprehensive guides on bathhouses in the Metro, right? Then again, I have written several posts related to HIV and AIDS and it’s not really my fault if the reader decides to have unsafe sex. Remember, even if I write about topics that can get you laid, your health is still your personal responsibility. It’s also not the Internet’s fault. The Internet is just a medium and it is still the people who use it who are responsible for their own well-being.
That said, I think that it’s still my responsibility, as a writer of a blog with quite a bit of readership, to promote safe sex and to help educate readers about STDs and HIV/AIDS. So expect me to pepper this blog with articles on said topics.
In closing, I guess it’s not enough to encourage PLUs to contribute to World Peace. It’s hard to promote camaraderie and goodwill when we are all dying before our time because of a wasting sickness, right? So I say to all my readers, Stay Safe!