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THOUGH EXPOSURE TO THE ignorance of people like Peter LaBarbera (“Lambda Razing,” The District Line, 8/13) is usually just a regrettable part of living in a heterogeneous society and not an occasion for response, as a D.C. AIDS services volunteer I must object more strongly to his most recent letter (The Mail, 9/3). LaBarbera takes Dan Savage to task for his inability to have safe sex, apparently because Savage is a homosexual. This assertion displays a remarkable lack of understanding regarding the spread of HIV: No one—whether straight or gay—is fully protected from the virus unless that person either abstains from intercourse having the possibility for the exchange of bodily fluids or commits to a mutually monogamous and healthy partner. Neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals have a monopoly on abstinence or monogamy, and neither group is immune from the consequences of other sexual practices. (In fact, if anything, lesbians as a group are statistically the most consistent and successful practitioners of safer sex.)
If LaBarbera wants to disagree with Savage on the desirability of “queer imagery” influencing the culture, that is his prerogative. Many would argue, however, that AIDS awareness programs, which have often grown out of the homosexual community, have done more to stem the spread of the virus in this country than the groups associated with Lambda Report have done. If LaBarbera means to celebrate monogamy between healthy partners as the only form of truly safe sex (putting aside abstinence, mutual masturbation, and other expressions of sexuality that do not expose the partners to the exchange of fluids), his premise has some foundation—at least with regard to the spread of HIV—but LaBarbera should know that the science underlying his premise does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Furthermore, it is well documented that practicing “safer” sex, whether gay or straight, appreciably reduces the risk of HIV infection when compared with unsafe practices in either community. Finally, to the extent LaBarbera states that heterosexuality is implicitly safe and inherently “healthier” than homosexuality, he is simply wrong. To suggest otherwise is not only disingenuous, but dangerous.