Open Forum: On the legacy of AIDS — trauma and shame get in the way of HIV prevention

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San Francisco Chronicle
by Phillip L.. Hammack
March 28, 2019

“Every time you have sex without a condom, you are asking to die.” The man appeared to be in his 50s. He was angry, raising his voice as he chastised the panelists, men in their 20s who admitted they preferred to have sex without condoms.

A young man stood up in the front row. “We can’t keep being afraid of sex because you were. We can’t carry the burden of everyone who died before us.”

Men in their 30s and 40s — me included — sat in silence. We grew up with AIDS and associated condom-less sex with death.

Gay men may no longer be dying of AIDS — we know how to prevent and manage HIV infection — but the psychological scars of the epidemic are still with us. We need to start having honest conversations about them.

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