December 1 is “World AIDS Day,” so both of Washington’s newspapers—the liberal Washington Post and the conservative Washington Times—featured stories on the worldwide AIDS epidemic.

The Post report focused on the promise of the latest generation of antiretroviral therapy. The Times article dealt with the efforts to expand circumcision of men, in the wake of scientific findings that this, too, can help reduce spread of the disease.

But what was missing?

In both articles, there was not a word about men who have sex with men (MSM).

And in neither article did the word “condom” appear a single time.

In the United States, men who have sex with men continue to be the group at highest risk for infection with HIV (overseas, heterosexual transmission is relatively more common). Yet the idea of fighting AIDS by discouraging the sexual conduct most likely to transmit it is completely taboo.

And at one time, condoms were considered to be THE answer to the AIDS epidemic. If we could just get men to use a condom every time, for every act of sexual intercourse (vaginal, oral, or anal), then we would beat the disease. This has proved easier said than done.

Two newspaper stories are a very limited sample. Yet they may be suggestive of two important realities.

The condom crusade has failed; yet we remain unwilling to encourage people to just say no to the sexual activity with the highest risk.