I am writing to applaud cover boy Jesus Sanchez (“The Shore Thing,” September 2007) for coming out publicly as HIV positive—as many have done and more need to do. However, I find no other meaningful content in the article. By describing how fabulous his life is, POZ runs the risk of glamorizing HIV. POZ missed an opportunity to ask Sanchez more about why he believes he became infected, even though he felt educated about HIV, and what other actions he thinks could have prevented him from becoming infected. That information could improve how we deliver HIV-prevention messages. As it stands, only the first half of his story was presented.
Liberty Hill, TX
While I commend POZ for profiling newly infected 19-year-old Jesus “Jesse” Sanchez, I find significant fault in the article and feel that a great disservice has been done to the community that POZ claims to represent.
My problem wasn’t that the story addressed the typical sense of invincibility and the resulting life-altering errors young people can make, but the glorification of it. I think the line between presenting a subject and promoting it was crossed. And when that promotion includes hyperbole, myths and misperceptions about HIV on the front page of a national magazine, the results are potentially disastrous.
I loved the story on Jesse Sanchez. Though I’m more than twice his age, it spoke to me. When I was a teen, it was also the older men thing and the feeling of invincibility that “it” would never happen to me that led to my early-20s seroconversion. The photography was also great—it helps he’s a cutie!
In Black and White
Thank you for Kellee Terrell’s article “Cheat Sheet” (September 2007), about the “race-specific cultural myth of infidelity,” aka the down low. Public health researcher Chandra Ford’s end quote spoke worlds to me: “Although black women have disproportionate rates of HIV, they engage in fewer risk factors....This speaks to something structural like incarceration, racism and poverty, but only a few people have done work around this.” With this in mind, I was thinking that the phrase “race-specific” masked the real structures that black women face. I suggest that “white supremacy” better explains the structures that put black women more at risk. More articles on the interplay of poverty, racism and HIV/AIDS, please!
New York City
I appreciate your efforts to make headlines “fun” and relevant. But “Cheat Sheet,” which compares gay and straight infection scenarios, did not, as your piece stated, debunk any promiscuity myths. Studies acknowledge the higher rate of MSM promiscuity but hypothesize that that fact alone cannot explain infection-rate differences. Anal sex is simply high risk.
POZ responds: The purpose of “Cheat Sheet” was not to debunk the promiscuity myths between gay and straight men or label which sex is riskier. It scrutinized mainstream media’s double standard when it labels black men who cheat on their wives with men “on the down low” and white men “in the closet,” which can encourage equating all gay black men as potential HIV infectors.
Clarification: In “Reyataz Takers: Drink Up” (October 2007), the FDA reference is related to the possible side effect of this drug and not to the drinking of water.