LONDON — The latest numbers from Public Health England for HIV infections among gay men there have inspired a spate of articles in the British press about cavalier drug and sex parties there, especially in London. But others are saying the rates appear higher because more people are getting tested and that the reports are sensationalist and somewhat anti-gay.
The Independent and others reported in articles published last week that rates of infection in Great Britain are up 8 percent reflecting 3,240 new infections among men who have sex with men while London accounted for 1,720 of the infections, reflecting a 17 percent increase since 2011, the paper reported citing figures from Public Health England published in The Lancet.
An Information Daily article quoted David Stuart from LGBT charity London Friend on the figures and trends behind them.
“Some gay men are preferring to have sex without condoms for a variety of complicated reasons associated with a changing HIV health situation and using drug to manage a complex relationship to sex, intimacy and gay identity,” he was quoted as having said. “Mix this with an alarming increase in injecting use and a reluctance to access traditional drug services and the potential for a costly and culturally harmful epidemic of HIV and drug use is enormous.”
Although the Independent article made passing reference to “some” of the increase being “attributed to more widespread HIV testing,” it cited only “anecdotal” evidence for the “growing issue.” The Information article referenced a “high-risk sex party and drug taking subculture within London’s gay community.”
Some observers say the articles are “overwrought.”
“This makes a good story in the press because it puts gay men right where they want them: sweating, wide-eyed in dark, cavernous clubs, their hands all over each other’s bodies — super-toned, because we all live in the gym, remember,” writes a Huffington Post blogger known as “The Guyliner.” “It’s easier to be frightened and place the blame on a part of society when you imagine their activities to be on the fringes of the law and decency.”
The blogger attributes the spike largely to less stigma around getting tested and budgets being “slashed” on HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns since anti-retroviral therapy became widely accessible.