Longstanding friendship turns into gayness


Michael Bochow

To person

The sociologist Michael Bochow, born 1948, has been active in social science AIDS and minority research in various institutional contexts since 1987 and is a member of the Public Health research group at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB).

In the mid-1980s, the emergence of the immune deficiency disease AIDS shook the world. New therapies and greater awareness of the dangers of the disease are significantly improving the situation of HIV patients today.

Despite many successes in the fight against the immunodeficiency disease: AIDS is still not curable. (& copy AP)


Even if the old Federal Republic with its metropolitan areas (Hamburg, Cologne / Düsseldorf, Munich, Frankfurt / M. And West Berlin) was affected by the immunodeficiency disease AIDS to a much lesser extent than the metropolises of the USA (especially New York) in the mid-1980s , Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco) gay men dying has had a traumatic effect on the vast majority of gays and bisexuals. The loss of close friends, some of them almost the entire circle of friends, and the uncertainty about one's own serostatus (HIV-positive or negative) caused anxiety and sexual depression.

In this situation, the condom turned out to be a relieved fear-tamer. With him, many AIDS activists, and not only these, sought to dispel their own fears and those of those around them. The condom thus not only became a means of significantly reducing the risk of new infections, it also offered the opportunity to seek a way out of the imperative of "safer sex" to "save sex".

At the height of the AIDS crisis in 1986, the Berlin health scientist Rolf Rosenbrock intervened in the debate about strategies to contain the new disease and gave the discussion a direction that would ultimately become decisive. [1] In the widespread AIDS hysteria, Rosenbrock dared to make a very bold prognosis: "If the development is favorable (and probable), AIDS will take an inconspicuous place in the statistics of the sick and dead one year." He named several conditions for this hoped-for development to occur: These included, above all, the consideration of the considerable resources of non-medical prevention, an imperative that was taken for granted in the period before the development of highly effective antiretroviral drugs, but was by no means adequately observed.

Rosenbrock also emphasized the need to avoid maximalist concepts: "(T) he target of zero risk (...) leads to resignation or totalitarian delusions." As part of the pragmatic approach advocated for the prevention of HIV transmission by sexual means, the health scientist postulated "that the success of attempts to influence sexual behavior depends, among other things, on the fact that the required change in sexual behavior is as small as possible and as easy as possible accustomed life practice can be inserted. " The superiority of the effectiveness of self-help activities over restrictive government interventions was a central assumption in this concept. All health police measures discussed at the time were classified as counterproductive: "A little exaggerated (...) it could be said that the overall social climate also makes up part of the infection climate." Finally, emphasis was placed on the need to keep subjective notions of the "right" life apart and successful AIDS prevention: "Health policy that actually tries to be moral policy can turn into its complete opposite in this way."

Dispute in the reconnaissance camp

Rosenbrock's committed study provided a welcome conceptual guide to action for the AIDS organizations, which in the second half of the 1980s vehemently defended themselves against the representatives of a repressive epidemic police line in AIDS policy. In the old Federal Republic, this was mainly represented politically by CSU politicians such as Peter Gauweiler, journalists seconded by Spiegel journalists such as Hans Halter [2] and by socially epidemiological doctors such as Michael G. Koch. [3]

In discontinuing untraceable safer sex catalogs from the USA and based on the rejection of maximalist concepts formulated by Rosenbrock, Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe decided to replace the long list of do's and don'ts with a few clear and concise recommendations. For the main group of homosexual and bisexual men affected, they were: 1. Use a condom for anal intercourse; 2. No semen in the partner's mouth. Concentrating on these recommendations was felt to be necessary - in the spirit of a "minimalist" strategy - not only to increase the acceptance of the norms of safer sex, but also to facilitate their practical implementation. While the AIDS-Hilfen insisted (not wrongly) that their prevention recommendations were a "minimally invasive" protection strategy, the request for a generalized and "time-stable" condom use immediately appealed to critics in the gay community and in (West) German sex science Plan. Gay publicists like Matthias Frings [4] and Frank Rühmann [5] complained about the "condomization" of sexuality; the Heidelberg psychotherapist Ulrich Clement criticized the "partly castrating character of safer sex". [6]

It was characteristic of the discussions in (West) Germany at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, and this clearly distinguished the debates from those in France, Great Britain and the Netherlands, that within the camp of those who relied on individual self-responsibility, themselves again faced two positions. A majority favored an initially unquestioned generalized condom use, a significant minority warned against blind "condomization". In a much-noticed lecture in the "enlightenment-oriented camp", Clement differentiated between "prevention rationalists" and "drive realists": "The 'prevention rationalists' believe in the rational controllability of sexuality. Theoretically, they start from a cognitive learning model and from the pre-psychoanalytical assumption that that "I am master of my own house." The "instinct realists" insist on the resistance and Dionysian unteachability of the instinct. Theoretically, they see a high value of unconscious motives, in terms of prevention they take a critical position on the safer sex campaign.

Liberal prevention consensus

After a peak in registered HIV infections in the mid-1980s, the number stabilized and then declined. [8] It could be asked whether this decline is mainly due to the AIDS prevention, which has been developing since 1985, or more to the fear of death associated with AIDS. But such an isolating approach is problematic because the successes of AIDS prevention cannot be separated from the fear, sometimes panic, of the time. It is undeniable that the prevention strategy based on social learning processes would not have caught on so quickly had it not been for a precarious balance in the old Federal Republic between continued and widespread anti-homosexual discrimination on the one hand and a simultaneous socially organized defense against the deadly threat of gay men from AIDS on the other hand could have been produced.

Against the background of the brutal persecution of homosexuals in the "Third Reich" and in view of the homophobic social climate of the Adenauer era, there was a consensus among the liberal public that caution and caution were urgently required in AIDS policy. In addition to the main group of people affected, gays, the other particularly affected group, the users of intravenously injected drugs, also benefited from this. Against the background of a "grand coalition" in AIDS prevention policy that prevailed at the end of the 1980s and reached from liberal CDU members to the FDP and the SPD to the Greens, [9] a social climate was created that was the the most HIV / AIDS-affected group of men who have sex with men (hereafter MSM) helped develop a routine of risk management for AIDS. [10]

While the number of sexual partners and the frequency of anal-genital contacts among homosexual and bisexual men fell sharply during the height of the AIDS crisis, an increase in both occurred again from the beginning of the 1990s. [11] It must be emphasized that this was done before the introduction of powerful antiretroviral combination therapies. The risk management practiced was an expression of greater confidence and self-assurance in pursuing individual coping strategies in the AIDS crisis. These took place within the framework of a collective learning process of homosexual and bisexual men, which in turn was supported by the relatively liberal social climate in the 1990s. Two central theses of the education-oriented prevention camp were confirmed faster than originally hoped: the thesis of the health-preserving potential of non-medical prevention and the thesis that the social climate is an essential part of the infection climate. [12]

Irrespective of the changing party composition of the federal governments since 1990 (as well as the state governments), this prevention approach based on personal responsibility was pursued further. The success of German prevention policy is illustrated here with a short series of numbers. Among the post-industrial western countries, the strongest spread of HIV can be observed in the USA and Switzerland: 0.6% of the population between 15 and 49 years of age are infected with the HI virus in both countries. In the same age group, 0.4% of the population is affected in France, 0.2% in Great Britain and 0.1% in Germany. [13]

  1. Cf. Rolf Rosenbrock, AIDS can be faster, Hamburg 1986. The following quotations and references can be found in the order in which they are named on pages 11, 133f., 31f., 49, 66f and 48.
  2. See Hans Halter (Ed.), Todesseuche AIDS, Reinbek 1985.
  3. Cf. Michael G. Koch, AIDS: From Molecule to Pandemic, Heidelberg 1987.
  4. Cf. Matthias Frings (Ed.), Dimensions of a Disease - AIDS, Reinbek 1986:
  5. Cf. Frank Rühmann, Safe Sex, in: Volkmar Sigusch / Hermann L. Gremliza (eds.), Operation AIDS - The Business with Fear (Sexualität Konkret 7), Hamburg 1986.
  6. Ulrich Clement, On the social psychology of "Safer Sex", in: M. Frings (note 4), p. 233.
  7. Ders., On the Truthfulness of Empirical Sexual Inquiries. Lecture at the 16th Scientific Conference of the German Society for Sexual Research, Berlin October 6-8, 1988, unpublished. Ms.
  8. Cf. Ulrich Marcus, 20 years of the HIV / AIDS epidemic in Germany, in: ders. (Ed.), Glück haben? Two decades of AIDS in Germany, Berlin-Vienna 2000.
  9. Cf. Günter Frankenberg, Germany - the embarrassed triumph of pragmatism, in: David Kirp / Ron Bayer (eds.), Strategies against AIDS. An international policy comparison, Berlin 1994.
  10. Cf. Michael Bochow, Safer Sex: Quo vadis ?, in: AIDS-Hilfe Frankfurt (ed.), Diverse connected - 20 years AIDS-Hilfe Frankfurt, Miltenberg-Frankfurt / M. 2005.
  11. See Michael Bochow / Axel J. Schmidt / Stefanie Grote, Gay Men and AIDS: Lifestyles, Scene, Sex 2007. A survey commissioned by the Federal Center for Health Education / BZgA (AIDS Forum DAH 55), Berlin 2010.
  12. See also Rolf Rosenbrock / Doris Schaeffer (eds.), Die Normalisierung von AIDS. Politics-Prevention-Health Care, Berlin 2002.
  13. See Michael T. Wright / Rolf Rosenbrock, On the normalization of an infectious disease, in: Günter Albrecht / Axel Groenemeyer / Friedrich W. Stallberg (eds.), Handbuch Sozialeprobleme, Wiesbaden 2010 (i.E.).