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2nd half of Larry Kramer's 2004 speech


I finished reading Larry Kramer's 2004 speech yesterday. While the first half was mainly about the origins of the HIV crisis and who was to blame, the second half was mainly about increasing economic inequality and who is to blame.

This was 16 years ago, economic inequality has definitely continued to increase since then.

He pointed to a well-organized and well-funded movement on the Right to use God as cover for the destruction of our social safety net while cutting taxes for the wealthy. He named a bunch of billionaires, including the Koch brothers, and said that the movement was so strong that it didn't even matter who the President was -- the rich would continue to get richer, while the poor would be left behind.

Yup, he's right about this.

He exhorted his audience to create an equally well-organized and well-funded movement on the Left. He said that if gay men would use the same ingenuity they use to find anonymous sex, to organize politically, then perhaps we could help roll back this Right-wing movement.

He also said the Right opposes universal health care as a form of passive genocide, and that HIV is an example of this passive genocide -- if a disease is wiping out non-white and non-straight people, well, then that's God's will, eh?

I hadn't thought about it this way before, that the Right's opposition to universal health care is a form of passive genocide. Just let the POC die, just let the poor die, just let the gays die. God's will.

Along the way, Kramer reminds his audience of two things:

(1) The HIV crisis is larger than the white gay male communities in the hyper cities of NYC, SF, and DC, it is a global crisis involving tens of millions of HIV+ people, most of whom do not have access to expensive medical care.

(2) The work done by ACT-UP to force the medical establishment to come up with treatments for HIV was not intended to allow insured white men to go back to having anonymous anal sex without condoms, but that's what it turned into --> insured white men get themselves on these drugs so they can go back to having anonymous anal sex without condoms.

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I talked with Tod for a while about Larry Kramer, about where we agree with him, about where we think he's off-base.

I think Kramer is too pessimistic about human nature and the strength of the Right, and in these past 16 years Kramer has been shown wrong in his predictions of growing anti-gay sentiment. Instead, we've had growing acceptance in the US and many other countries of same-sex relationships. We're also seeing younger people move strongly toward the Left as they grow up under conditions of worsening economic inequality.

But otherwise, I think Kramer is correct about a lot of things, including his criticisms of the gay community for being sexually irresponsible.

Tod said Kramer can come off as a rich white man lecturing others about their morality. But I say --> if anonymous anal sex without condoms is the #1 way in which HIV is spread in the US, I don't think it is "lecturing" to point this out and to blame the people engaged in it for spreading HIV and other STDs.

But some would say this is "blaming the victim". Others would say "people can consensually choose their own risk levels" when having sex. Others would say we need to provide education and health care rather than lecturing people who may not have the means to protect themselves.

Where I come down on this --> those of us who do have the education and health care should set an example for others. Yes, get yourself on the HIV-blocking drugs, to set an example for others. But also, do not engage in anonymous anal sex without condoms, to set an example for others.

Not everybody has access to HIV-blocking drugs. When the people who do have access to these drugs treat them like --> Yay, now we can have all the bareback sex we want, and we can do this publicly on the Internet, even bragging about it on Twitter ... then we create a norm that barebacking is OK, and the people who don't have access to HIV-blocking drugs may feel pressured or encouraged to bareback also.

I have been pressured by people, in person, and via the Internet, to toss aside condoms because they say they're on Prep or have undetectable levels of HIV. I've seen younger guys at sex parties fuck without condoms.

These are not the acts of people who think of themselves as representatives of a global gay community, most of whom do not have access to necessary health care. These are the acts of a well-off minority who have decided, "I'm safe, so I can fuck all I want, anybody I want."

But this safety is either temporary, or a mirage. Widespread barebacking creates a "sexual ecology" that supports the spread of drug-resistant STDs. HIV is not the only STD, but HIV also develops resistance to drugs over time. HIV can develop resistance to Prep, and is developing resistance to Prep, and over time Prep will become less effective. And the more guys who bareback while on Prep, the more quickly Prep will become less effective.

For now, gay men with health insurance can make the insurance companies spend $20,000/year/person on HIV blockers so they can have all the sex they want. But this is unsustainable. HIV will evolve, and other STDs will evolve, and we'll end up back in the plague years.

Meanwhile, if you don't have health insurance, you're still living in the plague years. The plague years never went away.

About 40 million people around the world are HIV+, with up to two million new HIV infections each year. Up to a million of these people are dying of AIDS-related illnesses every year.

The plague years never ended. But some lucky gay guys with health insurance think by taking a pill each day, they can pretend the plague years have ended. That's my "Larry Kramer"-esque argument in 2020. Check your Pill Privilege.


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