Libey said issues that need more attention include
drug and alcohol use, eating disorders, body-image
problems, the new drug-resistant staph bacteria, and
all of the older sexually transmitted diseases,
including hepatitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and
"We've seen a number of pretty dramatic syphilis
outbreaks among queer communities all around the
country," Libey noted.
FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TO THE DIFFERENTLY DICKED
The summit offered more than 130 workshops,
institutes, caucuses and meetings dealing with youth,
aging, transgender men, bears, Daddies, two-spirited
men, non-gay men who have sex with men, long-term HIV
survivors, 9/11 survivors, "differently dicked"
individuals, public sex, S&M, bisexuality,
prostitution, queeniness, drag, barebacking, porn,
gaydar, cum, erotic yoga, tantra, massage,
microbicides for anal sex, ethical slutiness, party
drugs, tobacco use, leadership, racism, self-esteem,
domestic violence, intimacy, trust, recovery, burnout,
religion, anti-gay churches, prostate and testicular
cancer, hepatitis C, HIV vaccines, new HIV drugs,
failed HIV prevention programs, holistic medicine,
health-marketing campaigns, the Internet, the war on
terrorism, marriage, and third-wave feminism, among
"We face a lot of challenges as we meet this week,"
said veteran activist Eric Rofes, convener of the
summit. "Some of us are coming together because we're
aiming to build community, to have more holistic
approaches to health. Some of us are here because of
serious reports we've read about syphilis, staph
infections, all kinds of HIV challenges, substance
abuse and crystal epidemics. ... Some of us are here
knowing that as political winds move to the right, we
really need to unite and support ourselves more so we
can continue to do the kind of work we know is
meaningful to the communities and subcultures we come
Some of the workshops were closed to the media,
including the one entitled "Eroticizing HIV: Beyond
Bareback, Beyond Edge, Beyond Taboo," although a
reporter was allowed to sit in the workshop if he
didn't take notes.
"Gift-givers and bug-chasers definitely exist," said
Libey. "But in my experience as an HIV-prevention
worker and as someone who does pre- and post-test HIV
counselling, it's not the most common thing that I
Libey dismissed as suspect the controversial Rolling
Stone magazine article that suggested 25 percent of
new HIV infections result from bug-chasing -- the
deliberate seeking out of HIV infection by having
unprotected receptive anal sex with an HIV-positive
Rofes said there's no simple answer to the problem of
people who get off on infecting someone or becoming
"Punitive approaches to gay men often get us what we
don't want," he said. "So I wouldn't advocate closing
down those [gift-giver/bug-chaser] Web sites, and I
wouldn't advocate discouraging people from advocating
those practices. I would, if I believed discouraging
the most-at-risk gay men would make them not do it,
but I don't believe it works that way."
The Web sites actually are a good thing, Rofes said.
"Web sites are really great places for people to get
off without creating much risk to themselves," he
said. "I think that's true in extreme sex in general."
The work of bringing down the HIV transmission rate
does not need to be concerned with "individual
people's fetishes," Rofes said, but rather with
barriers that prevent people from taking control of
their sex lives.
"As we approach 25 years into the epidemic, the
powerful and almost unitary AIDS approach to gay men's
health has produced problems for us," he said.
"Starting to look at cultural interventions around
health in the community in a big-picture way, without
even talking AIDS, might end up having people take
better care of themselves and be more conscious of
various health challenges, including HIV."
TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR SEX LIFE
"We're struggling to find a way to make it exciting
and meaningful to get involved with building
life-affirming, sustaining queer-men's health
communities," he said. "We're at the start of
determining what that looks like, how that avoids
being sanitizing and middle-class and 'goodie,' and
how it can appeal to mass numbers of people. We face a
huge challenge and we've just started the work. We're
looking at getting at the underlying causes that
create cycles of health challenges to gay men:
Continued generations of people who feel a huge amount
of shame and guilt around not only their gay
identities but around their sexual desires and
practices. People who feel disempowered. People who
feel like their sexual, their spiritual, their
physical and mental health are separated and
If the summit's vision becomes reality someday, said
Donald Hitchcock of the National Coalition for LGBT
Health, "We will be able to address a lot of the
issues that maybe lead to higher rates of HIV
infection such as mental health and substance abuse."
"The ideal clinic that we would all like to see in our
communities," Hitchcock said, "would be one where you
would go in and it wouldn't be just focused on getting
your AIDS test. You would have a doctor that could
address all your health needs, asking you about your
allergies, when the last time was you had a testicular
exam. Wouldn't it be nice that those HIV clinics could
become those centers that we could go to? This sort of
broader approach is what we're working on in the [LGBT
health] coalition as well."
The summit took place in downtown Raleigh, about two
miles from ultra rightwing Senator Jesse Helms' house.
Helms opposes abortion, gay rights, racial equality, arts
funding, and aid to what he calls "foreign rat holes."
"I really like the idea of having an event like this
in the South," said Ian Palmquist, assistant director
of the statewide gay lobbying group Equality North
Carolina. "I think very often our national movements
don't pay a lot of attention to the South and we have
a lot of work to do here. But we are not so bad off
that we need to be written off completely, and I think
that's an attitude that a lot of folks in other parts
of the country may have."
North Carolina is one of 13 U.S. states that
criminalize gay sex.