chapter  7
14 Pages

Suggestions for Prevention

We cannot implement effective prevention measures unless we are familiar with the sexual culture in which we are going to work. Even when we think we are familiar with it, our points of reference may be very different from those of the target population. In the case of prisons, two parallel cultures exist that interact with each other: the culture of the prison staff and that of the inmates. Because each culture assigns a different meaning to common terms, commu­ nications may sometimes resemble a “dialogue between the deaf.” To a prison officer, for example, a homosexual is a man who has sex with other men, regardless of what he does in bed. For an inmate, a man who has sex with women or with men, is not considered to have renounced heterosexuality, provided that he practices penetra­ tion. When a prison official gives a workshop that covers the sub­ ject of homosexuality, participants may understand very different things. The Health Ministry’s AIDS-prevention campaign, with its emphasis on monogamy or fidelity for heterosexuals and condom use for homosexuals (and indifference toward bisexuals), means that inmates get the message the wrong way around: they are faith­ ful to their women and do not use a condom with them, but they do use condoms with men. “I pay a lot of attention to what Dr. Herrera says [director of the Department for the Control of AIDS],” says Pico de Lora. “I’m totally faithful to my wife, and I use a condom with men. That’s what the old broad always says the few times she’s been here.” This behavior has a certain logic, though it is counter­ productive in the prevention of HIV infection. We have seen that the word “bisexual” does not have the same meaning for prison inmates as it does for prison staff. For inmates, a bisexual is a man who engages in active and passive anal penetration. “Bisexuals are

the ones most at risk, because they give their ass,” explains Toro. “In the case of cacheros, we don’t do it. When the nurse asks me if I’m bisexual, I say, ‘No way!’ So, she tells me that I won’t have any problem with infection.”