I found David Webb’s article (“Have we made the face of AIDS too pretty?” Dallas Voice, June 11) to have the flavor of a good old “fire-and-brimstone” sermon. Unfortunately, with a target audience of young people at risk, it is not very effective. A few might be scared silly, but most will tune it out.
With record unemployment, global warming and homophobia to deal with, today’s gay youth are not likely to be interested in “ancient history” offered up by an aging baby-boomer.

HIV drug companies do make the picture “too pretty.” However, Mr. Webb makes it too gloomy. The fact is, the “miracle” drugs of the 1990s have worked for the large majority of infected persons. (Access to these drugs is another issue.)

Like Mr. Webb, I also have memories of a nightmarish world, in which I attended weekly burials of friends gone too soon. But this is not the reality of the world I now live in. I am very thankful for this.

If we are to reduce new HIV infections, we must use conversation (not go to war on HIV mentality) to achieve it. Young people need to be told of the amazing advances in HIV meds, but also focus on the tedious routine of drug dosages, increased  ”side effects” of these meds as we age, as well as the ever growing cost of such meds (forget new clothes, travel and other luxuries they may want in the future). Our discussions need to focus on what is relevant to their world now, not what happened in our past.

Finally, I found Mr. Webb’s comments on his friend with KS scars painful to read. I hope he was not as harsh at the time with him. Statements like “so vain about his good looks [he was] hiding in an apartment to die” overlook how much a person’s identity is trashed by such a condition. Vanity is not the sole reason for an ill persons’ fear of the outside world.

Hopefully, in dealing with HIV we can move beyond fear tactics. We have plenty of people who dislike us using this method. Let’s agree to be better than that with each other.

Michael Cowan

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.