Sex Positive, An Interesting Documentary of The Early Days Of HIV AIDS

Hey there Guys,

One of my mates has just alerted me to this very interesting documentary “Sex Positive”. Focusing in on Richard Berkowitz a frequently unknown man who has been credited for being one of the first people to advocate safe sex while the HIV/AIDS outbreak was developing in New York.

Berkowitz was born and raised in New Jersey, when he moved to NYC  earning a living as a self-described S&M hustler.

Even before AIDS was recognized as a syndrome, Berkowitz became concerned about protecting his clients, many of whom were married, from sexually transmitted diseases. He met physician Joseph Sonnabend and became a patient, learning from Sonnabend the practices for risk reduction that would later become known as safe sex. His early work with Sonnabend and singer and activist Michael Callen noted behaviors including drug use, multiple sexual partners, and unsafe sexual practices in the gay community for transmission. These claims were considered controversial by early leaders of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, such as Larry Kramer, and many activists took issue with the language of their message and its implications.

The 1983 pamphlet “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach” by Callen and Berkowitz (in consultation with Sonnabend) is widely considered the first sex-positive guide to practicing safe sex.

Below is an exert from the review of Sex Positive @

Richard Berkowitz, the man at the center of Daryl Wein’s intelligent and engaging Sex Positive, is the ideal documentary subject: with his combination of self-effacement and daunting confidence, Berkowitz easily commands the screen throughout its short running time. Such an appealing figure is especially crucial for a film that focuses on a subject as potentially didactic and strictly educational as the promotion of safe sex for the gay community. Yet director and editor Wein smartly doesn’t use Berkowitz, a groundbreaking writer and safe-sex spokesman who contracted HIV in early eighties New York, as a mouthpiece for an agenda-driven doc; rather he presents the debates surrounding safe-sex discourse, and its connection to scientific theories surrounding the virus itself, as integral elements in Berkowitz’s biography. In a sense, Berkowitz, who’s all at once wily, compelling, articulate, and sardonic onscreen, is the hook: once we’re sucked in, though, we learn a great deal about the history of the epidemic, and the various responses to it, presented in a sharply linear fashion.

This is a really interesting watch to see the HIV/AIDS crisis at the developing stage from the gay perspective. I’m not sure if Sex Positive is available to watch on DVD however you can watch it via your computer @ SBS on demand.

Certainly interesting viewing.

Yours in good health.

Dr George


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