The poster advertising a community forum and discussion about the recent Vienna AIDS Conference featured what is popularly known as a Bear Millennium Clone, an idealized handsome young white guy with short hair and a beard, and a plaid Western shirt. No one with that look showed up for the forum on Aug. 11 at the Castro Street Bank of America Building, but 50 people managed to get a chair and almost 50 more stood or sat on the floor at the unexpectedly well-attended event. A large number of the participants were women and men engaged in jobs fighting HIV/AIDS at various organizations, and they were from diverse cultures and backgrounds. A sizable contingent from Black Brothers Esteem, an organization of African American men that is funded by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, made their presence known, and they asked some of the most exacting and detailed questions of the panelists.
The event was entitled ‚ÄúAsk the Experts, A Community Forum and Discussion on the Topics of PrEP, Microbiocides, STD‚Äôs, and Lubricants.‚ÄĚ Those experts included Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of HIV Prevention and Research at the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), Dr. Susan Phillip, STD Prevention and Control Services at the SFDPH, Project Inform‚Äôs Director of Treatment and Prevention Mat Sharp, and Dr. Albert Liu, Director of HIV Prevention Intervention Studies at the SFDPH. The event was sponsored by the SFDPH‚Äôs HelpFightHIV.org project and the Stop AIDS Project, and it was masterfully moderated by the Stop AIDS Project‚Äôs Director of Education Jen Hecht. SFDPH‚Äôs Gavin Morrow-Hall was the event contact person, and there was a well-placed large man who acted as a greeter, seating coordinator, and a deterrent to anyone who wanted to disrupt the forum.
Most people at the discussion were surprised at the news from the recent Vienna AIDS Conference that a lubricant had been developed that killed 39% of the AIDS virus in a study, and that there had been a spontaneous standing ovation in the Austrian capitol and that attendees had burst into tears. Many of the physicians, clinicians, and other health workers at the conference had battled the AIDS virus, a biblical plague, since the early ‚Äė80s, and for them this was such a breakthrough that they became overwhelmed with emotion. Some had patients who had come into their offices with a few Kaposi Sarcoma spots, and then they agonized as dozens and then hundreds of spots spread across their bodies in a few months and then blocked their breathing and digestion, as the helpless doctors looked on. Others had tried to treat patients with limited immune systems only to have them fall down and die days later on Castro Street due to undetected pneumonia or brain lesions. Other patients became resistant to the new cocktail treatments and other medicines failed to alleviate their illnesses, a heart-rending situation for doctors who are dedicated to healing.
The importance of the virus-killing lubricant became clear when the panelists spoke about people who made a decision to not use a condom, or they did not have access to condoms. Incredibly even in San Francisco, there are safer sex instructors among the over one thousand people who sero-convert to positive for HIV every year. What could be missed by current safer sex education is that it is more than common horniness, alcohol, or drugs that impels someone to ignore condoms next to their bed or in their jeans. It is possibly a state of pre-orgasmic delirium, something that overtakes their common sense and suppresses virtually all of their upper brain. Delirium could explain dangerous sex with dangerous people in dangerous places.
Questions about the new lubricant poured out of the audience, and they were told that it needed further study. The different conditions for lubricants for vaginal and rectal use were discussed, and a generally high level of optimism for the development of even more effective lubricants and other kinds of disease protection was a theme of the evening.
Many of the guests appreciated the sandwiches, bottled water, and sodas provided at the forum, since they had missed their lunch or dinner because of tight work scheduling.
Readers can learn more about the well-organized forum and discussion by contacting the Stop AIDS Project at www.stopaids.org and the SFDPH.