Zachary Quinto was right — let's get back to basics.
Late last year the proud and prominent American Horror Story star Zachary Quinto voiced concern for gay men in Out Magazine claiming they had fallen into a complacent pattern of "laziness" when it came to safe-sex...
He copped a barrage of criticism from the populist PC brigade as a result. He believed HIV/AIDS had "lost the edge of horror it possessed when it swept through the world in the ’80s", and was forced to defend himself amid salacious accusations that he suffered from 'internalised homophobia' for earnestly speaking out in opposition to the barebacking epidemic enveloping gay and bisexual men.
His opinion should never have been demonised, his motives should never have been questioned, his sense of purpose never undermined.
We pay homage to the pharmaceutical companies that've broke ground in HIV treatments because without those life-saving medicines the coalface of our community would be a terrible one. Yet since the advent of HAART drugs, young men in particular have become oh so far removed from the realities of potential HIV/AIDS complications.
Physical wasting, early-onset dementia and a cavalcade of other complications stemming from untreated HIV aren't in the forefront of their collective minds, and are seldom mentioned in contemporary safe-sex campaigns - in part thankfully so, as these afflictions are no longer common in HIV+ people, yet a part of me wonders why we're trying to strip the scares away from a virus which is still wreaking havoc on our community.
Our youth haven't lived through the torturous era of the 80's and 90's, whereby weekly AIDS-related obituaries greeted the bloodshot eyes of men far and wide as they gazed in horror at more casualties that the calamitous HIV/AIDS demon had claimed.
As a result of modern-day medical marvels and advancements in treatment, somenegative men in our community are giving up on their first-line of defence in the fight against HIV - condoms.
Why? Well we all know why, it's because they're no longer scared, the virus has lost its grim-faced gusto, many are under the impression it's now a minor manageable condition.
Now I don't believe in everything Quinto said (he overstepped the boundaries ever so slightly when he said PrEP shouldn't be taken to increase promiscuis sex, hell, we're allowed to have as much sex as we damn well please) but his over-arching message was clear - relying on the daily pill Truvada (PrEP) or verbal confirmations (from casual partners that they're HIV+ yet undetectable) should not be a one-size fits all approach to HIV prevention.
He's still demonised to this day for those comments, recently telling The Huffington Post he "still wants to be part of the conversation", despite the unfair finger-pointing and divisiveness surrounding his original (and valid) comments.
PrEP and the surging popularity of bareback porn play their part, and whilst sublime research results continue to filter back to our GLBTI health promotion agencies and the general pink public, it's doing nothing to promote condom-usage.
The interim results from the Kirby Institute's 'Opposites Attract' study found no new HIV infections among the 234 serodiscordant couples who engaged in over 44,000 independent sex acts. That's a phenomenal result and superb news for us all.
However, Chief researcher Professor Andrew Grulich was coy on whether that meant undetectable viral loads equate to zero risk, saying “the true risk of transmission could be anywhere between zero and 4.2% per year, with a very small chance that the per-year risk could be higher than 4.2%”.
There needs to be more research before we can unequivocally state undetectable viral loads equate to a 0% chance of transmission. Until that day comes, we have to stay on message in downplaying a potentially dangerous 'thought bubble' that's unintentionally fed to many people in our community - that undetectable viral loads in conjunction with PrEP equate to an impenetrable shield of protection against HIV.
Condoms have long been the staple prevention tool and is 100% our best defence at stemming the tide of scourging HIV infection rates nationally and on a global scale.
HIV healthcare has come leaps and bounds in helping positive men to lead rich, fruitful and fulfilling lives and for that we should all be eternally grateful - but we can all agree it's come at a cost to the safe-sex mantra of 'correct and consistent condom-usage everytime you have sex' that worked so well throughout the 90's and early noughties to stifle rates of infection.
Quinto was merely echoing these sentiments, because there are people (like myself) who feel as though emerging generations of gay and bisexual men may not realise just how widespread HIV is in the MSM community - and seek saucy (and risky) shortcuts in their safe-sex regimens.
A pill a day won't keep the doctor away boys, PrEP is not the magic bullet, and it's not going to provide the same level of protection as a condom - that's the core unapologetic message that we need to relay to men who are riding high on a 'false-sense-of-security' wave.
The GLBTI community is a vibrant, diverse, sensational portraiture of people - but we can't please everyone everytime.
We need hard-hitting, condom-centric campaigns, getting right back to the basics. If we are truly intent on reaching our goal of zero infections by 2020, then we all need to put aside our sensitivies on the issue, without being disrespectful to positive men or their partners.
Be wise with your partner choices, wrap your tool, and get regular testing for that is our best chance at making HIV history - it's just so crucial that condoms take back the 'centre-stage' limelight as we continue our crusade to erase HIV forever.
Robert Edward Smith is a Melbourne-based writer and equality enthusiast.