To wear or not to wear? The condom debate among gay men, especially in Washington, D.C., where HIV cases are alarmingly high, is especially important.
Gay men do not need condoms for their primary use – birth control – but still need them to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.
An estimated one in 20 adults in D.C. is affected with HIV and 37 percent of cases affect sexually active gay men, according to the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which provides HIV testing.
While some gay men do not use condoms because it “feels better” or “feels more natural,” other gay men in the D.C. community are speaking out and promoting safe sex.
Michael Komo, president of GW’s Allied in Pride, is taking steps forward in promoting condom use among gay men.
“There is no reason for two people who are sexually active with one another to not use condoms,” Komo said. “We need to do everything as a community in order to promote safe sex.”
While he promotes condom use, Komo also suggests sexually active gay men get tested for HIV every six months.
“My philosophy is that it is better to be safe than sorry. I have done everything in my power to promote sex safe,” said Komo. “I am a huge advocate for using protection. I think that there will always be a debate, whether it be among gay men or straight partners, about whether or not to use a condom during sex.”
GW’s Allied in Pride office provides free condoms.
“We want people to protect themselves if they are having sex,” Komo said. “There is no reason for people to not be safe. (Condoms) take very little effort to use. We always have and always will advocate for practicing safe sex.”
Dan O’Neill, who is a student at GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences and an active member in many LGBT-affiliated organizations in D.C., also believes in the importance of gay men wearing condoms.
“Gay men definitely need to be wearing condoms, especially in the context of D.C.’s modern HIV epidemic.”
O’Neill said he plans to launch a citywide safer sex distribution campaign targeting gay men.
“A reason for this is that a new generation of gay men are not heeding the warnings and don’t appreciate the importance of practicing safer sex, because they never experienced the devastation that AIDS wreaked on the generation of gay men just before,” O’Neill said.
“I feel we’re on the brink of another massive wave of the HIV epidemic that, frankly, has already begun.”