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Study: Risky Gay Sex On Rise

stephanie sims
CBS
San Francisco has reported a disturbing increase in the HIV infection rate, attributed to riskier sexual behavior among gay men.

CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports that the success of treating AIDS is one reason the virus is spreading.

Freddie Oaks, a veteran in the battle against AIDS, has been fighting HIV and the AIDS virus in his own body for 12 years. His main weapon now is a handful of pills twice a day, such as Retonavir and Crixovan.

The drugs have helped change AIDS from a disease people die of to one they live with.

"I had a doctor look at me in 1992 and tell me I had six months to live," said Oaks.

But the survival stories of people like Freddie Oaks are bringing a new danger.

"People are looking at the disease as a chronic, treatable disease rather than a fatal disease," said Dr. Robert Janssen of the Centers for Disease Control.

But that change is making some forget important lessons, says Mathilde Krim of the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

"Today we are seeing alarming things in San Francisco, such as a return to unsafe sexual practices, particularly among a group of young gay men that were studied," said Krim.

Surveys in San Francisco's gay community show a startling increase in risky behavior. And health officials see evidence of a big jump in new HIV infections.

In a community that was once so vigilant about AIDS, some are now even rejecting years of scientific evidence.

"I don't believe I'm going to die. I don't believe I'm infectious to the people that I love," said Michael Bellefountaine in San Francisco.

Bellefountaine says he tested positive for HIV six years ago. Now with the activist group ACT UP he's pushing a controversial message that the scientists got it wrong -- that HIV does not cause AIDS.

"I think it's going to take a younger generation that's going to be a little more skeptical, that did not have a personal involvement in promotion of HIV=AIDS=death, to be able to get to the bottom of what's going on."

That kind of talk worries Freddie Oaks.

"I had the experience of laying 15 of my friends to rest," said Oaks.

He's afraid if the younger generation doesn't learn from the history of AIDS, they may be doomed to repeat it.