Matt Foreman

World AIDS Day: Greater government and community response to HIV/AIDS epidemic is needed

Filed By Matt Foreman | December 01, 2007 10:15 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: government, HIV/AIDS, LGBT community, NGLTF, United States, World AIDS Day

On World AIDS Day, we mourn all the people we have lost to this dreadful disease — our lovers, our friends, our family members, our leaders. Our hearts go out to all those who are now suffering and dying. And we acknowledge with great sadness the reality that thousands more will become infected during the coming year, with no end in sight.

Here in the United States, the attitude of so many within our own community is that there's not a lot more to be done. That anyone who acquires HIV today has no one to blame but himself. That HIV/AIDS is most certainly not a gay disease. That it's time to move on.

We must do everything possible to end these attitudes or we will be going through these same grim World AIDS Day motions year after year, year after year.

We can no longer respond with silence to studies that show that nearly half of African-American gay and bisexual men in our large cities have HIV, and two-thirds don't even know it. Or shrug off the fact that of the 129 government-approved interventions to address HIV in African Americans, only one has been designed or adapted for black gay men.

We can no longer buy into the blame-the-victim mentality when the fact is that our government continues to slash funding for prevention programs.

We can no longer pretend to be mystified by the surge in HIV in young gay and bisexual men when, instead of abolishing the abominable and thoroughly-debunked ‘abstinence-only’ programs, the Democratic-controlled Congress is - this very day - considering giving them a huge increase in funding.

When - in a few weeks - the government announces statistics showing a huge surge in new HIV cases, we cannot let them explain it away saying, 'It's just because we are counting more accurately.'

We must break the mindset that this isn't our problem, when the fact is that gay and bisexual men are still the majority of people living with HIV and still the majority of new infections.

This has to be the year when our community brings HIV/AIDS back to the core of our agenda for complete equality.

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Matt -

As I'm sure you're aware - the CDC has decided to hold release of those new HIV stats - expected to indicate that the rate of new HIV infections is now 50,000-60,000 annually, up from the regularly reported 40,000 annual new infections. (BTW - when did THAT number become acceptable?)

Everyone from the Wall Street Journal to AIDS Healthcare Foundation is asking why the CDC isn't releasing the numbers...

But a MORE important question - I think - is how many of those new infections are directly related to crystal meth use? THAT is the silent driver of this new wave of HIV and STDs - which the CDC warns now includes "super-bugs" resistant to current medications.

I recently posted a story on The Bilerico Project - Metastasizing Meth Is Eroding Our Moral High Ground - talking about the correlation between HIV and meth use. In that post I noted that the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center reported that 43% of folks newly infected with HIV reported some meth use.

And meth use is NOT restricted to the white gay community - it is increasingly devastating people of color and women.

As we did with HIV/AIDS - this is one area where the LGBT community can show some leadership and help the larger community at the same time.

We're doing that here in Los Angeles - and I know Dr. Marjorie Hill at GMHC is working hard to combat the HIV-meth connection in NYC, too. BUT we need to see the national groups get involved - or yes, it will be 1984 all over again.

Thanks for listening -
Karen Ocamb

We can no longer pretend to be mystified by the surge in HIV in young gay and bisexual men when, instead of abolishing the abominable and thoroughly-debunked ‘abstinence-only’ programs, the Democratic-controlled Congress is - this very day - considering giving them a huge increase in funding.

It always bothers me when folks use the abstinence-only curriculum to point to the surge in HIV. Not that I don't believe it, just that I'm sick of the reasoning behind it being: "Gays and lesbians can't wait until marriage, so abstinence only programs suck." Why is it we can't just talk about HIV/AIDS without having to go back to marriage? Even I'm guilty of it on occasion!

Why not just say "These programs are killing our youth (and straight ones!) by not providing information on how to protect yourself from HIV." Isn't that enough? Can't we go back to concentrating on HIV/AIDS without having to drag marriage back into it? It's almost as if white people have to have marriage as part of the problem before they get interested anymore...

Matt Foreman | December 3, 2007 10:49 AM

Bill -

I don't think the arguments against abstinence only have anything to do with marriage - AO programs have been shown not to work, cause harm, AND the money they are sucking up should be being spent on prevention education.

Matt Foreman