On Eric Rofes and Pro-Sex HIV Prevention

Published: November 13, 2013

Nearly a decade ago, when I first started to get involved politically and the discussions were just taking shape that would give form and direction to the discussions we are witnessing today, I first met Eric Rofes.

Aspiring to be neither a bureaucrat nor an activist but someone who had a few skills, a lot of energy, and a huge commitment to gay and bisexual men, I sought a place to locate myself and do my work, a platform that could provide a critical space so that I could think through and make sense of both the political landscape of gay men’s sexual practices and sexual health. I found in Eric’s vision a blueprint and a model for how to be thoughtful, interested in culture, and rooted in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.
Eric’s stunning vision — he understood that healthy communities produce healthy people better than most — I initially encountered through his writings. I found a series of articles he had written online, which led me to his magnificent books Reviving the Tribe and Dry Bones Breath.
His project, one of the most radical projects for gay men, if ever there was one, was about not only survival but post-survival for gay men, about daring to imagine a future for us, a way forward, in the aftermath of war. But it wasn’t science fiction or utopia; rather, Rofes advocated for pragmatic and deliberate planning and community rebuilding, which would anticipate the clinical turn in HIV prevention and the behavioral turn in HIV treatment, a historical marker as much as a scientific one.

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