There are several disturbing misinterpretations in Hendrik van der Breggen's letter "The Case of Homosexuality Revisited" (Imprint, July 12, 1996). His letter attempts to explain that homosexual "acts," including fisting and anal sex are truly harmful to "himself, his family and others." Although fisting and anal sex, are often associated with homosexuality (and most often homosexual men), they could also be practiced in heterosexual relationships. It would be unfair to assume that all homosexuals practice fisting and anal sex; just as unfair as it would be to assume that all heterosexuals practice these acts. What is most disturbing, however, is his assumption that homosexuals (again, homosexual men) are more likely to acquire the HIV virus which causes AIDS, as his "anal analogy" asserts. Precaution should be taken to use condoms during anal or vaginal sex, two equally high risk activities. Although the number of persons infected with HIV or AIDS may be proportionately higher among homosexual men (it should be noted that there is a proportionately lower number of homosexual women infected with HIV or AIDS), the rate of infection is declining steadily from its historical high in the 1980s. It is inappropriate to assume that all homosexual men practice unsafe sex (whether anal sex or fisting) and that they are responsible for support costs associated with HIV and AIDS care. When HIV and AIDS were highly stigmatized diseases during the early 1980s, many of those who were infected through blood transfusions, intravenous drug use, or other non-homosexual contact, sought support and refuge in the gay communtiy. Here, educational programs and funding sources were developed - not only for gay men, but for all infected with the disease. Today, because of the support from the gay community, there exists the Casey House in Toronto - a long term home for those with HIV and AIDS, regardless of how the disease was initially contacted. As well, red ribbon campaigns have grown out of support programs within the gay community and are now actively endorsed by what Mr. van der Breggen calls the "larger population."
Mr. van der Breggen mentions that in 1992, heart disease "killed 83 times as many Canadians as did AIDS." Perhaps he had forgotten that one of the major causes of heart disease is smoking, which some think is a choice. Smoking can be paralleled with heart disease the same way in which unsafe sexual practices are paralleled with HIV infection, which causes AIDS. Finally, it should be noted that a person infected with full blown AIDS experiences exposure to terminal diseases, including cancer. This would explain the urgency and importance of HIV/AIDS funding allocation.
Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for Mr. van der Breggen to better understand the nature of HIV and AIDS infection, and to gain a better understanding of the gay community which he actively misinterprets and generalizes about. These misinterpretations and generalizations are what I feel truly "hurt myself, my family and others" to use Mr. van der Breggen's words.--Andrew Brouwer, 3B Urban & Regional Planning
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