A Republican official in the US state of Utah has been criticised by the LGBT+ people after suggesting that suicide rates amongst the community can be attributed to their high number of sexual partners.
Dave Robinson, who identifies as a gay man, is the new communications director for Salt Lake County made the assumption during an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, where he also made comments on HIV prevention drugs.
He told the publication that members of the community often suffer from 'self-loathing' and suicidal thoughts as they have 'over 2'000 sex partners' and that HIV drugs can cause gay men to have sex like 'bunny rabbits.'
You talk to some of these people that have had grundles of sex partners, and the self-loathing and basically the unhappiness and the self-hatred level is tremendously high.
The gay community really needs to start having some conversations within their community, saying how is our lifestyle affecting our mental health?
He continued his comments by mentioning the HIV prevention drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which he claims has inspired people to have unprotected intercourse at monthly 'sex parties' under the belief that it would prevent all STDs.
Robinson's critical comments on the drug are quoted by Advocate:
[Gay people] went to the county health department and said, ‘Look, if you love the gays, then you need to give us and all of our people this medication for free.’
And so the county’s like, ‘Yes, we love the gays,’ so they start giving them all this medicine.
He also stated that the Republican was not homophobic, amongst claims that the party was promoting an anti-LGBT+ agenda.
I said, you can own your own business, you can run for office — I don’t think there’s a better time on this planet in history to be gay than right now.
These comments come shortly after statistics showed that Utah's suicide rate had seen a 140 per cent increase since 2011 and is the fifth highest in the country overall.
Advocate reports that young members of the LGBT+ community in Utah are at a risk of suicide, something which has been blamed on the Mormon Church's (the state's main religion) promotion of homophobia and transphobia.
Robinson has since found himself at the centre of a storm of criticism from LGBT+ rights organisations. Troy Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah told the Tribune:
Condemning who and how we love is a strange way to build a bridge between the Republican Party and the LGBTQ community.
Mr. Robinson’s rhetoric is deeply irresponsible and unbecoming of a leader in a political party in the state of Utah.
Lynn Beltran, an STD and HIV epidemiology supervisor at Salt Lake County Health Department dismissed Robinson's claims about PrEP as inaccurate and that the health department has never dispensed the drug and isn't even allowed to prescribe it.
In the aftermath of the interview, which was published on Monday, Scott Miller, the chairman of the Salt Lake County Republican Party admitted that he might fire Robinson.
In an open letter he wrote:
The subject of depression and suicide transcends all of our communities.
I want to be very clear that the Salt Lake County Republican Party and our candidates do not agree that there is only one cause or solution to our local/national suicide concerns.
We believe there are many factors surrounding these issues and we will continue to diligently seek solutions.
Other Republican politicians have also condemned Robinson's words.
Um... as a Republican who cares deeply about the suicide epidemic in Utah... this guy does NOT speak for me. #utpol https://t.co/p1hMh0BBpk
— Aimee Winder Newton (@Aimee Winder Newton)
In another interview with the Tribuneon Thursday, Robinson stood by his comments but did add that there were other reasons as to why someone would choose to take their own life.
I stand by my position that multiple sexual partners leads to increased risk of STD and HIV, which affects one’s mental, physical and financial health, which leads to a higher risk of depression which leads to a higher risk of thoughts of suicide which leads to higher suicide rates.