Washington Blade - August 30, 2009
In 1982, Richard Berkowitz, Michael Callen and Dr. Joseph
Sonnabend endured being called "the Jerry Falwells fo the gay
community" for daring to suggest that promiscuous gay men needed
to modify their sexual behavior in the face of a new epidemic
that was decimating the community.
Berkowitz and Callen, who died of AIDS in 1993, wrote the
earliest how-to guides for what would come to be known as safe
sex, including "How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach,"
which laid out ways to reduce the risk associated with a variety
of common gay male sex practices.
Few remembered Berkowitz' role until "Sex Positive," a
documentary by Daryl Wein, began screening. The compelling film
came to Atlanta last night for a benefit screening for Positive
Impact, The Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Research Center, and
Action Cycling 200, a bike ride that raises money for HIV vaccine
Berkowitz was in attendance and received a standing ovation after
the film. In remarks to the audience, he didn't mince words about
the difficulties of getting out frank information about safe sex,
and the way conservatives have "watered down" the message in the
last decade to the point that it no longer celebrates sex and no
longer has resonance for gay men.
Here is Berkowitz explaining what happened then, and what needs
to happen now, to help curb the ongoing spread of HIV with gay
men and other at-risk populations: