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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Manifesto Calls for Safer Sex to Curb Rise in HIV
Warren King
October 9, 2003
Seattle Times (10.08.03) - Thursday, October 09, 2003

A 40-member task force comprising HIV-prevention workers, AIDS service organization representatives, public health employees and gay community activists released a strongly worded "manifesto" on October 7, encouraging gay and bisexual men to behave more responsibly and make greater efforts to stop a steady increase in HIV infections in King County, Wash.

"We are accountable for our behavior - to ourselves, our sex partners, and our community.... Transmitting HIV knowingly is an act of violence," the group said in "A Community Manifesto: A New Response to HIV and STDs." The group expects controversy over the manifesto's pointed observations, which they plan to circulate in gay publications and on Web sites. HIV infection in King County increased 40 percent last year, and health officials expect a similar increase this year. Syphilis and gonorrhea infections have also risen dramatically, with many in HIV-infected men. Roughly one in seven gay men in the county has HIV.

"I'm not aware of any group on the globe that has sought to be so explicit about care for [sexual] partners and for the community," said task force member Dr. Bob Wood, director of AIDS Control for Public Health - Seattle & King County.

Dr. Ron Valdiserri, a top HIV-prevention official at CDC, said the manifesto is important because of its community involvement: "Community engagement is absolutely critical for HIV prevention," he said.

The new approach is the latest among several prevention efforts that started since STDs began increasing among gay men about five years ago. They have included an advertising campaign, an open letter from the Governor's Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS published in newspapers, an HIV prevention column in a gay newspaper and warnings from public health officials. Nothing has stopped the increase of HIV and other STDs.

"These rates show we have stopped doing the things that protect us and our sex partners from needless infections," the manifesto said.