H. Alexander Robinson

Let's Not Forget About AIDS on World AIDS Day

Filed By H. Alexander Robinson | November 30, 2007 10:45 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: African-American, black, ENDA, hate crimes legislation, HIV/AIDS, LGBT, LGBT youth, marriage equality, World AIDS Day

As we embark upon another World AIDS Day we must continue to keep HIV/AIDS as a strategic priority and to not allow it to become an afterthought among the emerging and ongoing socioeconomic and political issues before us.

Prior to the 1996 introduction of the lifesaving protease inhibitors, the LGBT movement’s energy was consumed by the AIDS epidemic. We clearly reacted to the emergency that it was as we lost many people along the way. In several ways our attention, energies and resources were not available to pursue other issues.

Though our quest for equality and civil rights didn’t end, we were clearly distracted by our need to defend those suffering from discrimination, care for the sick and dying and press our government for a response.

But after the drug cocktails were introduced and people began living longer and more vibrant lives, the community it seemed was lulled into a false sense of stability and confidence. Though we did not declare victory, we believed ourselves free to move on to other matters that had, in some cases, languished or suffered due to lack of leadership and resources.

By this time many of the ACT UP activists passed on including some of the most aggressive Black gay men who were most vocal about HIV prevention. Many of us who did survive became burned out and decided to move onto other life endeavors. Strangely, although people no longer were visibly sick on the streets and in our communities, HIV/AIDS still managed to spread under our radar.

Gay news agencies have recently reported a major increase in new HIV/AIDS infection from previous years reporting. However, this increase doesn’t necessarily represent a surge in HIV/AIDS infections. Sources within the CDC advise us that what we are seeing for the first time is more detailed and accurate reporting by state agencies on HIV/AIDS in general. Whatever the facts about the increases, the epidemic is far from over and the new population of people living with HIV and AIDS is young, Black and female.

So for the past decade while the LGBT community has been focusing on other pressing social justice issues, HIV/AIDS has been silently growing in non-gay and Black communities in dramatic numbers. AIDS has become a not so silent thief in the night, stealing the future of our youth and undermining the very fabric of Black communities in cities and counties across the country.

It is urgent that the LGBT movement begin to refocus more of its energy and attention to dealing with HIV/AIDS and strike a delicate balance between the hard fought social issues of today and the public health concerns of HIV/AIDS that lies ahead of us on tomorrow.

As a Black gay man I am often torn between communities. For so many Black LGBT communities HIV has never waned, there has been no respect. However, in my work with the LGBT movement, the AIDS epidemic is seldom on the list of priorities and we spend precious little time addressing the state of the pandemic.

In our valiant quest for desperately needed marriage equality let us not forget that 49% of new HIV/AIDS infections occur within the Black community. If we are indeed one community we must care because, as one of my friends likes to say, “dead people don’t get married.”

In our vibrant zeal to secure badly needed federal hate crimes protections, let us not forget that 61% of young people under the age 25 being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS is Black.

In our passionate desire to obtain crucially needed workplace protections through ENDA legislation, let us not forget that 48% of new HIV/AIDS infections emanate from Black men who have sex with men.

HIV/AIDS is still a major presence in the lives of Americans and increasingly has become a devastating specter within the Black community at large. Hence it could be tempting for the LGBT community to sweep issues dealing with HIV/AIDS under the rug.

It could be tempting for the LGBT community to declare HIV/AIDS as a secondary or even as a tertiary priority. It could also be tempting from a media messaging perspective no longer to equate the word "gay" with AIDS-related issues and instead focus on other social justice LGBT issues.

Combine all of this with the lifesaving drugs that only some people can afford and the threat of HIV/AIDS could potentially be rendered as null and void in the minds of some who would like to move forward to other issues.

But I encourage each of you to please take the time this World AIDS Day to rethink, re-assess and re-strategize how you view HIV/AIDS as it affects your life and lives of others. Although you may no longer be the face of HIV/AIDS there are many others struggling to survive who are.

Together we can end AIDS.


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True, true.

Since the estimated less than 1% of the world poz population that can afford protease inhibitors are some of the most visible, powerful, and affluent poz Americans, it's easy to assume that the crisis has ended just because it's been moved out of the media. We can afford to move on to other things because, apparently, certain people can afford drugs. All the while, the disease hurts the other growing 99% all the same as it used to.

Thanks for reminding us, Alexander.

It is urgent that the LGBT movement begin to refocus more of its energy and attention to dealing with HIV/AIDS and strike a delicate balance between the hard fought social issues of today and the public health concerns of HIV/AIDS that lies ahead of us on tomorrow.

Truer words have rarely been spoken here at the Project, Alexander.

I appreciate your message but i am a bit taken aback that you choose to subliminally put down middle aged gay white men who are fighting for marriage equality as some sort of reason why black AIDS is on the increase. We have survived the most bitter first wave of AIDS and now want to spend time as survivors taking care of our partners by assuring legally sanctioned benefits in our old age. Please don't write about that as some sort of sideshow that can wait because you want our continued assistance. I call a spade a spade when i see it. Tell the "down low crowd" to grip reality and come out of the closet. They could not be further away from my views than some southerner still waving the confederate flag. I don't accomodate people who do not even acknowledge who they are. Black women are the sad statistic because of that attitude. Get educated. Teach prevention. There are many resources for gay men of color especially in places like GMHC and LGBT community center in NYC. And as my own sidenote, you may want to take notice that most of the volunteers at those two previously mentioned organizations who are donating their time are caucasian gay men. THERE IS YOUR DELICATE BALANCE. HOW DARE YOU. Watch out what you say. I am not into protecting politically correct racial jargon at my expense and as a minority don't think for a second i wont confront you on your hypocrisy. I do not have to review anything about AIDS. I came into my own when "Silence = Death" was our chant. AIDS still kills. There is nothing new about that fact since the early 80s for me.

I always find it frustrating to respond to anonymous post and usually avoid doing so but I think it is important to set the record straight.

First, my commentary was not a “put down middle aged gay white men who are fighting for marriage equality” subliminal or otherwise. I have been working on the issue of marriage since the case in Hawaii and have been a public advocate for marriage in my current home state of Maryland and throughout the nation. NBJC if fact was founded in large part to combat organizing within African American communities in support of a Constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriages.

Contrary to EWE’s assertion I don’t believe that “gay white men” or their priorities are the “reason why black AIDS is on the increase.”

More importantly EWE suggests that we: “Tell the "down low crowd" to grip reality and come out of the closet. They could not be further away from my views than some southerner still waving the confederate flag. I don't accommodate people who do not even acknowledge who they are. So who is casting blame here? This sounds strangely like what was said to those early AIDS activist by the homophobes. Blame the victim: gay men brought the epidemic on themselves, they said.

I would like to know what evidence EWE has to support the assertion that “ Black women are the sad statistic” of the DL.

EWE and I agree that “There are many resources for gay men of color especially in places like GMHC and LGBT community center in NYC.” There are not enough and we must bolster those efforts and more. However, my challenge still stands. We all must refocus our efforts to end the epidemic. This is especially true at the level of national advocacy and with regard to our prevention initiatives.

Moreover as EWE’s comments remind us there is still prejudice against those who are infected and we continue to scapegoat the most vulnerable among us.
NBJC’s vision is of a world where it is safe for all to live openly regardless of sexual orientation. However, when it comes to ending AIDS we need meet those at risk where there are—not where we might want them to have arrived.

Just several days ago, I read a news at pozgroup.zcom, which is an anonymous STD personal and support site. It says 54-percent of the new infections in the United States occur among African Americans, and 64-percent of the new infections in women occur in African American women.

I wonder, how many of these African American are living with a GLBT lifestyle. Maybe, those GLBT people should pay more attention to their health issues in the future.