At the National STD Prevention Conference on Wednesday, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released some astonishing data regarding rates of infection among MSM (Men who have Sex with Men).
The data indicate that rates of HIV infection among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are more than 44 times higher than rates among heterosexual men and more than 40 times higher than women. Rates of syphilis, an STD that can facilitate HIV infection and, if left untreated, may lead to sight loss and severe damage to the nervous system, are reported to be more than 46 times higher among gay men and other MSM than among heterosexual men and more than 71 times higher than among women. (Full presser here).
Disturbing statistics indeed. But for all this darkness, there's a light on the horizon:
While the heavy toll of HIV and syphilis among gay and bisexual men has been long recognized, this analysis shows just how stark the health disparities are between this and other populations," said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. "It is clear that we will not be able to stop the U.S. HIV epidemic until every affected community, along with health officials nationwide, prioritize the needs of gay and bisexual men with HIV prevention efforts. (emphasis mine)
Listen up: "Prioritize the needs of gay and bisexual men with HIV prevention efforts." That means at the head of the line, the top of the list, etc. That means that they are publicly saying that what has been done in the past to target MSM is not working. To my knowledge this has never been said before by the CDC. I don't want to blow this out of proportion, but this may change the face of outreach and prevention efforts in the U.S. I'm an optimist, but I'm also a realist.
It's not going to happen without our help.
As MSM, PWH (Persons with HIV), LGBTIQ, allies, families, friends, we not only have to hold our state and local agencies and organizations to this, we have to help figure out what's gone wrong. So let's get started.
These are completely preventible diseases. We are not preventing them (granted, I have one of them). For openers, I'll throw out some questions:
- Have we stopped caring about ourselves and our partners? Have we lost our self-respect?
- Have we simply accepted that as gay/bi/dl(down low) men, this is the price we pay?
- Do young gay men know what a pain in the ass it is to have HIV? Are PWH telling them?
- Are we STD ignorant?Syphilis can be just as deadly as HIV.
- Are men just stupid in the face of sex?
- Are we just tired?
- What can we do to stop the infection of our community? What will work?