FIGURE 1. Estimated percentage of persons diagnosed with HIV with infection attributed to male-to-male contact or male-to-male contact and injection drug use, by area of residence — National HIV Surveillance System, United States, 2011.
In 2011, MSM accounted for at least half of persons diagnosed with HIV in all but two states. The percentage of MSM reporting unprotected anal sex at least once in the past 12 months increased from 2005 to 2011, from 48% in 2005, to 54% in 2008, and 57% in 2011. The trend was statistically significant among self-reported HIV-negative or unknown status MSM (47%, 54%, and 57%, respectively.) The most severally affected areas were my home state of California; as well as Oregon and Washington: where 80-82% of all HIV infections were attributed to male-to-male contact or male-to-male contact with injection drug use.
On a personal, purely unscientific level, this news is heartbreaking; for I was once one of those who were duped and deceived into believing that California, more specifically – San Francisco, held the magical elixir that would create a gay paradise on Earth. The call first rung in my ears as a child, because every young confused boy who grew up in the disco era heard the anthem of “Go West” by The Village People. In 1979 they sang:
“Together we will love the beach, together we will learn and teach.
Together change our pace of life, together we will work and strive.
I love you, I know you love me; I want you happy and carefree.
So that’s why I have no protest when you say you want to go west.
Go west, life is peaceful there.
Go west, lots of open air…”
It was an alluring and powerful lie. For myself, I bought into it, yet – I did not have to go very far: just about 40 miles south of my hometown. When I got there, I met many others who had given up everything and traveled across the country. It was the third great Western migration: after the pioneer days of the 49’ers, and the Dust-Bowl refugees of the Depression. The wave of gay wanderers to the Golden State were drawn by the same promise of a land overflowing with milk and honey. But, this time, the plenty would be combined with the appeal of sexual freedom and homosexual camaraderie. Yet, lurking just below the surface: was a growing epidemic. By the time I got to San Francisco, many of those early settlers had already been killed off. Tragically, I had to watch as the second generation became sick and fell into their graves. It was like living through a war; and; disastrously, the slaughter continues.