CDC, anal sex, and risk

Related to a couple of previous posts, I thought it would be helpful to review what The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has to say about anal sex and risk.

Can I get HIV from anal sex?

Yes. In fact, unprotected (without a condom) anal sex (intercourse) is considered to be very risky behavior. It is possible for either sex partner to become infected with HIV during anal sex. HIV can be found in the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, or vaginal fluid of a person infected with the virus. In general, the person receiving the semen is at greater risk of getting HIV because the lining of the rectum is thin and may allow the virus to enter the body during anal sex. However, a person who inserts his penis into an infected partner also is at risk because HIV can enter through the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis) or through small cuts, abrasions, or open sores on the penis.

Not having (abstaining from) sex is the most effective way to avoid HIV. If people choose to have anal sex, they should use a latex condom. Most of the time, condoms work well. However, condoms are more likely to break during anal sex than during vaginal sex. Thus, even with a condom, anal sex can be risky. A person should use generous amounts of water-based lubricant in addition to the condom to reduce the chances of the condom breaking.

Working with clients, I provide this information and accentuate the risks involved. This is true for men and women, no matter what their erotic orientation.

For information purposes, Laumann et al found that 25% of men and 20% of women reported anal sex. Among gay and bisexual men, 76% of the survey respondents had experienced insertive anal intercourse and 82% receptive. This was in 1994, I suspect the numbers are higher among straights now.

To me, this means that straights need the CDC information and some gays do not engage in anal sex (although they need the information as well). Assumptions that all gay males do this routinely, while often correct, are not always true. Frequency of such activities and with whom are important factors for health care professionals to ask about and they are the determinants of disease, not sexual attractions per se. My view is that sexual promiscuity in gay men owes more to being male than being attracted to the same sex. Of course, this is not proven but it fits my clinical experience and observations better than assuming the reverse.

There are people of both sexes and all sexual orientations who are at high risk for acquiring and spreading STDs. These individuals often have significant emotional needs and profit from interventions that are individually suited to their needs.

Take away point: People who do not manage their intimate lives well are at higher risk for disease and emotional distress than those who do.

Rick Warren’s AIDS conference dust up

The last several days, a fuss has erupted about an AIDS conference at Rick Warren’s (Purpose Driven Life) Saddleback church hosting an AIDS conference. Pro-life groups are upset that Barack Obama is speaking (he favors partial-birth abortion) and the new AIDS Truth Coalition wants more time at the conference on gay promiscuity. Saddleback has responded and the conference goes on.

Given our discussion of gay culture, is there something to the idea that gay leaders should be more vocal about promiscuity? That sounds provocative but I mean it to be a serious question. Feel free to comment on any aspect of this controversy.

More on the church and homosexuality

The discussion on the post, “What if the evangelical church is wrong on homosexuality” is taking several directions so I thought I would post a follow up on the topic of relationships and the church. I wrote a piece last year that seems appropos – Did Jesus Bless Homosexuality? These kinds of discussions are incredibly valuable for those who are concerned about the intersection of religion and sexuality. As a therapist, I find them very helpful in clarifying the sexual identity struggles of my clients and in forming a framework to help therapists in their work.

What if the church is wrong about homosexuality?

A little Evangelical “inside baseball…”

USA Today had an op-ed yesterday by a minister named Oliver Thomas taking the position that the morality of homosexuality depends on what science learns about the factors which may cause it.

I suppose that is the first topic for discussion here.

I have resisted this argument. One, because I do not like the idea that what one values or chooses to do is solely determined by private inclinations. As a matter of principle, there are numerous reasons to hope for restraint of private inclinations in behavior. Values and beliefs ought to guide such decisions. Two, as one who holds to an authority outside of myself, I reserve for myself the value of living by wisdom that may not comport with my private inclinations. So I do not agree with the idea that inclinations to do certain things are themselves enough to make them reliable guides to moral action. This is my brief take on things and I think many in Evangelical circles would agree.

Now for others, personal experience is the determiner of truth. For example, it was for Carl Rogers who said: “Experience is, for me, the highest authority…Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research –neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my own direct experience.”

Worlds collide.

Now, let that quote from Rogers segue into a controversy involving Bart Campolo, son of prominent evangelical, Tony Campolo. Recently, he wrote an article suggesting in a Jethro Tull-like fashion that he could not believe in a God that did not compare favorably to his view of fairness and compassion. The article is a passionate and interesting read; here is a quote that provoked me to include it in this post: “I am a free agent, after all, and I have standards for my God, the first of which is this: I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am.”

Bringing these two articles together, they testify to the powerful forces within Christianity broadly-speaking and to an increasing degree, within Evangelicalism as well, to allow science and compassion to decide the “gay issue.” If science determines that being attracted to same sex is hardwired (although I am not sure how much is enough – 40%, 60%, 90%?), then how could a compassionate god consider homoerotic behavior to be immoral? Science becomes the delimiting factor for what can, and cannot be moral.

We have a similar discussion before on this blog. Some people come to gay-affirming theology due to their study of the Scripture and not science nor subjectivity. And so there can be a discussion based on a foundation – what does Scripture teach?

However, for those following the lead of USA Today’s Thomas, we should take a leap of faith in the promises of the biological determinists regarding homosexuality. If we follow Campolo’s lead, human compassion, individually determined, is the test of godness and by extension what god prefers.

These are tough times for those who value primary guidance from Scripture and tradition and I suspect the status of homosexuality as a matter of ecclesiastical contention is safe for the forseeable future.

(Hat tip: No Kool Aid Zone for the Campolo article…)

Ted Haggard – Pastor’s Case Stirs Debate: Denver Post

Today’s Denver Post has an article by Kevin Simpson and Eric Gorski that reports on the various views of sexual orientation and how the restoration of Ted Haggard might proceed. A balanced article, the reporters include quotes from Anthony Bogaert, Daryl Bem, Robert Spitzer, Jack Drescher, Mary Heathman, Joe Nicolosi, Alan Chambers and yours truly. There is also a story of someone who went into Exodus and did not experience the change he was looking for.