October / November #4 : Whose Advocate? - by Bill Henning

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues

Table of Contents

Proud Mary



AIDS and Health Scare Reform

HMOs Will Kill Us All

Oh Boy!

Rising Sun?

Chinese Medicine Takes Root

Savage Grace

Sister Act

Does Reality Bite?

A Dance Story

Philadelphia, the Prequel?

Another Patsy, Bill?

Swing Shift

AIDS: American as Apple Pie

Whose Advocate?

TAG, ACT UP in Hot Fax War

Alice’s Wonderland

AIDS Law: Overruled

POZ VCR: More Proof

AIDS Zen: Party

House Call

Tea Time

Sex: In Search Of

Life: Do Good Intentions Kill?

Health: Everybody Means Everybody

Alternative Health: What About Us?

Media: Blow Hards

POZ Insider

Checking In: Love Matters

People Like Them: Sign o' the Pines

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

email print

October / November 1994

Whose Advocate?

by Bill Henning

Sex survey raises alarm but not consciousness

Earlier this year, a lesbian and gay news-magazine, The Advocate, asked its male readers to fill out a sex survey. The 171-question survey, devised by a physician, a psychologist and a sociologist, focused on the sexual identities, relationships, current sexual practices, drug use and health of gay and bisexual men. Well, the results are in and they support a notion advanced by several recent studies: Many gay men today are taking chances on exposure to HIV. A startling 44 percent of men who had insertive anal intercourse in the past year reported that they had ejaculated in a partner without wearing a condom. Among those who had receptive anal intercourse, 58 percent had a partner ejaculate in them without a condom. Clearly, either safer sex education has failed or it is rapidly losing effectiveness.

After applauding The Advocate for broadcasting that alarm, however, people may want to press the magazine to purge their future surveys of bias against people with HIV. Participants in this survey were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement: "I can tell if someone has HIV by the way he looks and acts" -- a worthy attempt to gauge the prevalence of a dangerous and offensive myth. But when responses to that survey item are summed up by saying, "Most men recognize the difficulty of judging whether another person is infected by HIV," [emphasis ours], the myth is reinforced. The shift in word choice suggests that trying to visually determine a person's HIV status is a common and even desirable practice.

Now, some might think that's splitting hairs but several glaring omissions in the summary of the survey's results as well as in the survey itself also betray a bias against people with HIV. The summary reports that 44 percent of the men surveyed who have had insertive oral intercourse during the past year had ejaculated into a partner's mouth. It then goes on to tell us that 26 percent of HIV positive men have done so, "most typically with someone they have just met." Percentages of men who have not been tested or who have tested negative and cum in a partner's mouth are not revealed in the published results -- let alone how well they knew the partner involved. Only the irresponsible behavior of HIV positive men is reported, demonizing them.

Similarly, The Advocate reports that 11 percent of men who have tested HIV positive have said or implied that they were HIV negative in order to have sex. The survey did not go on to ask if that sex was safer sex. More important, the survey did not even bother to ask men who had not been tested for HIV if they had ever said or implied that they were HIV negative in order to have sex. The survey dangerously promotes one of the public's greatest AIDS fears -- the specter of people with HIV wantonly and knowingly exposing others to the virus. But given CDC estimates that 85 percent of Americans have not been tested for HIV, perhaps what the public should really fear is hordes of HIV positive people -- who have not been tested -- unknowingly spreading the virus.

Asked to comment on these aspects of the survey, Advocate Editor in Chief Jeff Yarbrough said POZ "might be pushing it" and referred us to Dr. Janet Lever, one of the survey's creators and the author of the magazine's survey results summary. Lever did not feel that the question about HIV positive men lying to prospective sex partners about their HIV status needed to be balanced by asking untested men if they had deceived partners about their status. She emphasized the importance of the data they did collect: "If it reflects badly on a handful of HIV positive people, so be it," she said. "You can't be Pollyanna-ish on these issues." Unfortunately, the data cast suspicion on all people with HIV. And the survey ignores the fact that a person's risk of being exposed to HIV by a deceitful HIV positive person is the same whether that person knows their HIV status or not. The Advocate's researchers missed a rare opportunity to drive that point home and eclipse a dangerous, media-driven myth. Instead, sadly, they reinforced that stereotype.

Scroll down to comment on this story.


(will display; 2-50 characters)


(will NOT display)


(will display; optional)

Comment (500 characters left):

(Note: The POZ team reviews all comments before they are posted. Please do not include either ":" or "@" in your comment. The opinions expressed by people providing comments are theirs alone. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart + Strong, which is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by people providing comments.)

Comments require captcha.
Please enter this number for verification:

| Posting Rules

Show comments (0 total)

[Go to top]

Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr Instagram
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar
POZ on Twitter

Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Did you participate in an event for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2016?


more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2016 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.