Argh, I hate cartoons like...
... this one. Can we say HOMOPHOBIC STEREOTYPING?
Update I've already received some emails disagreeing with me, so perhaps I should clarify what it is I don't like about the cartoon. What I disagree with is the way the patient is drawn: he's a limp-wristed stereotype, with his hands in his lap and a sweater tied around his shoulders. I'm also not a fan of the overdone labels and metaphors (I mean, a giant pill labeled "personal responsibility or death"?)
So I disagree with the execution of the cartoon, and likely the viewpoint behind it (since it comes from a very conservative cartoonist whose previous cartoon was another bad "chew on this" metaphor and whom hardly seems gay-friendly). I don't think the cartoon is meant to be a positive message about the need for safer sex, or even a cautionary message about the (dangerous) perception among many (whether gay, straight or bisexual) that AIDS isn't as bad any more because there are some treatments available, or that AIDS is somehow "over". I could be wrong, but I think it is more of a "those hedonistic gays have no sense of personal responsibility" message.
But whatever the cartoonist's intent, the cartoon does bring up a serious crisis. There has been a resurgence in new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men, especially younger men who weren't around to see the first wave of the epidemic. From the Boston Globe (Thanks to reader Scott for some of these links):
Effective drug cocktails that attacked the virus became widely available in the mid-1990s, giving many people with HIV years of healthy life. But some long-term users have begun to see the effectiveness wear off as the virus adapts. In addition, others find that the side effects, which can include disfiguring fat deposits, are so troubling that they choose not to continue treatment.And although personal responsibility is important, simple calls for "personal responsibility" are not going to save many lives or end the crisis. Fighting AIDS requires comprehensive and well-funded prevention, testing and counselling programs carefully geared to speak to a wide variety of populations. For more information and links, please see organizations such as AIDS Action or the Gay Men's Health Crisis of NYC.
Both Kessler and Koh said state budget cuts for AIDS prevention were particularly short-sighted in light of the new trends. The state has cut deeply into money for prevention, testing and counseling in the last few years.
Health officials are also concerned about a broader shift away from safer sex practices.
There has been an increase nationally in syphilis and other illnesses that show a resurgence in risky sexual behaviors, particularly among young gay men, officials said. Lack of direct contact with others who have suffered from AIDS is one of the factors.
''There is continued reason for concern,'' Bina said. ''These are young men who have never really seen the face of AIDS.''
Sadly, the federal government has been going the other way by funding abstinence-only education (such as lesson plans asking students to sign celibacy-until-marriage pledges--now THAT'S gonna speak to gay teens!), feeding young people medically-inaccurate right-wing religious propaganda and denying them access to life-saving information about safer sex and contraception. As far as I'm concerned, these abstinence-only programs have blood on their hands.