Conference sex in Mexico City

The IRIN/PlusNews has an interesting post on the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, “conference sex,” and hotel-supplied condoms.

According to the article, “Conference sex is a rarely discussed, but very real phenomenon”:

Thousands of HIV-positive people will be among the conference attendees, and for many of them, this sort of gathering is the perfect place to meet potential lovers or spouses who are also HIV-positive.

“When we have conferences for people living with HIV, we see very high levels of sexual activity among the participants,” commented Lyne Mutheu (not her real name), who works with one of Nairobi’s largest networks for people living with HIV.  “It seems like they are trying to expend the sexual energy they have been building up because they feel they cannot date freely in their normal lives.”

As it turns out, a new program may be one step ahead of conference-goers: “the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will be supplying Mexico City’s hotels with condoms, as part of an initiative by UNAIDS and the Mexican hotel industry.”

According to the UNAIDS website:

UNAIDS and the Mexican hotel industry are launching an HIV prevention campaign entitled “The Life Initiative – Hotels addressing AIDS”. Aimed at hotel guests and staff the initiative will raise awareness about HIV prevention and non-discrimination of people living with HIV. The initiative will also promote the development of sustainable long- term HIV workplace policies and programmes in the hotels. The hotel industry is a key player in the response to AIDS as it can reach a wide and diverse audience with HIV prevention information including its large workforce.

The prevention campaign will include the display of AIDS related leaflets, posters and brochures, art exhibitions, distribution of free male and female condoms, and showing of AIDS related films in all participating hotels. Condoms will be distributed at all participating hotels via the “condom project” which has been financed with the support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

According to the IRIN again,

Joining the fight against HIV seems like a sensible step for hotels that are host to countless numbers of lonely travellers, many of whom will wind up having sex during their stay.

Throughout history, travel has been associated with the spread of disease. Trade and migration are thought to have helped the bubonic plague wreak devastation in the Middle Ages, while the movement of armies in the early 16th century may explain how syphilis spread so rapidly across Europe.*

Here’s the interesting ending to the IRIN piece:

No doubt there will be some advocates of abstinence and faithfulness attending the conference who will see UNFPA’s decision to leave condoms in hotel rooms as a license for delegates to have sex with virtual strangers.

But perhaps it’s better to put the moralising aside and deal with the reality of conference sex.

That touches on a LOT of issues that I’m not going to even try to go into here.  But I have to say, I largely agree with that last sentence.  The fact that this is even an issue indicates that people are going to have sex whether there are condoms around or not.  Better that they do it safely, if it’s going to happen anyway.

I have to say, I’m not actually surprised by this story.  A couple of my friends went to a CDC conference on HIV/AIDS a few years ago, and they said there was a lot of partying behind the scenes.  They were pretty shocked, because it seemed like a lot of people were doing some pretty unsafe things in terms of unprotected sex, etc.  (Just for the record my friends weren’t involved.  Actually, they were the kids from a Christian college who kept getting asked why they weren’t going around giving out condoms at their school.)

* As a very recently-graduated history major, I get excited when I read about history in the news. Especially medieval history.  BTW, what the article says about bubonic plague is true.  You can look at maps showing how the Black Death spread across Europe in the late 1340s, and actually trace it along trade routes from Italian ports up through Northern Europe.

A prof I took (and actually worked for) in college gave lectures on the Black Death in several of her classes.  She always started those classes by doing a little devotional and having the class pray about HIV/AIDS — a modern health crisis.  I loved that.

Okay…geeky history-major moment officially over. :)


~ by h.e.g. on July 31, 2008.

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