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9 May 2003

sars behind bars

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a respiratory illness that has killed 500 people and infected over 7000 worldwide, according to latest reports by the World Heath Organisation. How safe is clubbing, going to saunas and cruising for sex in this climate? In the Pink provides advice on how to keep yourself and your community safe.

Kevin stared incessantly at the mirror. No! The mirror tells no lies. The reflection was perfect. Those seductive eyes, strong masculine jawline, double-decked chest and the triple-decked abdominals were certainly something one cannot stop staring at. He could not stand it any longer. So many poor souls have lost the opportunity to grope his sinewy body in the darkest recesses of the gay bars since SARS snatched the limelight 8 weeks ago. He has been afraid to go out to those fun places lest he contracted that horrifying disease. But today, all of that is going to change his body is more than ready to be paraded and his life which up until now has been an energetic and exciting one must go on

Fany (aka iron lady III) gazed nonchalantly at her collection of tubes and brushes, creams and lotions and could not help feeling a little sorry for her poor deserted complexion which has been robbed of its rich heritage since the launch of the SARS attack. She has not had the chance to smack on her two-way cake and bring her cheekbones to life since that dreadful day that SARS decided to creep into her life. Her distant cousin had contracted SARS 7 weeks ago and since then, most of her friends have been too afraid to go out with her. She has had to put a stop to all her drag parties and her gyrating on the pedestal in the none too famous gay disco, Tattoo. But today, all that is going to change too ... she is going to bring her face back to life and her body back into action and party till the sun shines

What about you? Have you been like Kevin and Fany?

SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) is likely caused by a coronavirus and is transmitted through close contact or through respiratory droplets. To date, we know that a high fever above 38C heralds the arrival of SARS, coupled with other symptoms of dry cough, headache, body ache and difficulty in breathing. These symptoms however are not unique to SARS alone and are also common symptoms in other illness, like the common cold, flu and other types of pneumonia. A strong history of prior visits to SARS affected countries, SARS affected hospitals and SARS affected places that have been defined, or a history of close contact with a SARS affected relative puts one in a more likely position to be diagnosed as SARS should you come down with those attendant symptoms.

Now that we all know more about SARS, it is time to put our own life in its right perspective. Not discounting the fact that there are risks in everything we do, it is now time for us to take stock of our own acceptance of what is acceptable risk to each one of us. Until there is a cure or a vaccine for SARS, we have to decide for ourselves what is safe enough for us to do and where is safe enough for us to go. Also, let's not forget the fact that gay men generally have a riskier lifestyle, though some of you may choose to differ on this. With all due respect, gay men are more geared towards enjoying their lives even if it means a riskier life. Saunas, bars and discos are not meant for the chicken-hearted. If you have never even dared to drag yourself there even once in your lifetime, then SARS or no SARS, you will not be there. But if you are those that enjoy partying, dancing, cruising and bruising, then how safe are these hot spots and nightspots?
Partying, dancing, cruising and sex are all energy - demanding activities and it would be difficult to imagine anyone who would be able to work those muscles (even with the aid of aphrodisiacs) in the face of feeling unwell or running a fever. In other words, most people would have to be fever-free when they partake of these gay-inspired activities. Even if one should have the misfortune of being afflicted with SARS but only to be in the early incubation period, current medical information tells us that his chance of passing the disease to someone else is low especially if he is not having a fever. Hence the need for each one of us to be socially responsible cannot be trivialized. The importance of temperature taking cannot be belittled and if you should have a temperature > 37.5C, stay at home or seek medical attention. Stay far away from pubs, bars, discos and saunas. We already have enough gay-bashers and ordinary viruses out there killing us. We do not need new killers and certainly do not need to annihilate our own precious kind. Remember, everyone out there in the gay scene is a brother and sister, aunty and uncle, so we must all stand united and act now. Protect ourselves and remember to check your temperature before any gay expedition.

For those who are deeply entrenched in the heat of the night and partying till early dawn, it is imperative that you maintain your good health through consuming copious amount of oral fluids other than booze, getting plenty of rest the morning after, and indulging in sufficient fruits and vegetables.

For those who are patrons of saunas and jacuzzis, it may be consoling to know that this SARS-causing virus is denatured and killed by heat. So, the hotter, the better, but just don't burn that naked bum. This virus is known to thrive well in subzero temperatures and thankfully, none of our saunas are in that frigid condition, otherwise how would the naked bodies be roaming about? Nonetheless, we must not be complacent and good personal hygiene must be exercised at all times. It would be good to take a bath before you start cruising the sauna and do not forget to wash the privates, both in front and behind as well. Who knows, you could get lucky!

For the martial arts and kung fu exponents, do not practice your golden showers in the pool. Do not put the chlorine in the pool to the test. Pit your skills at the urinals and engage in fair competition with other eager sharp shooters. I certainly hope none of you defecate in the pool. Heaven forbids! That is the least you should not do! Remember, the virus can stay alive in the urine and faeces of infected individuals for even up to a few days. Hence for the health conscious, avoid drinking any water from the common pool. If you need to quench that deep burning throat of yours, go to the water coolers but do not wrap your mouth around those iron rods of life. All they are going to give you is relief from your thirst and nothing else for they are no more than passionless, cold, iron rods.

As for the rest of the usual heart wrenching, bigger-than-life activities that go on in the saunas, we leave it to you to decide on your own fate. All these activities still carry the usual risks that come with them but there should be no added risks of contracting SARS if each of us practice temperature taking like the way we execute our delicate wrist drop and stay home when we feel unwell.

Kevin and Fany need to come out and play today. All those make-up and fine muscular bodies are crying for attention. Let us do our part so that everyone can be gay again. Like the law enforcers with their guns in their hands, we too will hold our thermometers to our dear succulent mouths and together, we can put SARS behind bars.

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