Monday, September 27, 2010

National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Today, September 27, marks the third annual National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This is a time to reflect on how profoundly HIV/AIDS has affected people in general and gay and bi men, specifically. It's also a time to recognize how much this group has influenced the development and implementation of strategies to prevent and treat the virus and the disease.

According to the CDC, nationally men who have sex with men (MSM) are 44 to 86 times more likely to be infected with HIV than their heterosexual counterparts.

Gay and bisexual men account for 53 percent of new infections, despite comprising only an estimated 2 percent of the total population. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius even said recently "in some U.S. cities, it is estimated that nearly half of gay African-American men are HIV-positive."

While HIV/AIDS does not discriminate, it is clearly still a significant issue for the LGBT community. Social inequality is often associated with poorer health status, and members of the LGBT community are at increased risk for a number of health threats when compared to the heterosexual community.

It's important to note, however, that while there are a few differences in sexual behavior that account for some of these disparities, most are associated with social and structural inequities, such as the stigma and discrimination that LGBT populations experience. In other words, prejudice and ignorance are the problems, not a person's sexual orientation.

Communal urgency regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic among LGBT folks has fallen, unfortunately. HIV/AIDS isn't the death sentence that it used to be, but it's still incurable and horrible. The gay community now tends to be more focused on civil rights issues (which are, of course, critically important) than HIV/AIDS, and HIV/AIDS activists are more likely to experience compassion fatigue than activists working on other issues.

We may no longer have weekly funerals for friends who have died from issues related to HIV/AIDS, but people are still suffering and dying. It's a dark irony that we were more invested in preventative, curative, and palliative care for HIV/AIDS when people we knew were dying on an almost daily basis. Now an AIDS death is a tragedy, but one that results less in activism and more in apathy.

Still, we do have more information available nowadays, as well as more ways to share it and connect with others.

On this day of awareness, please consider three things about HIV/AIDS:
  1. Disease prevention is not an exact science. You can do everything correctly and still get infected. Conversely, perversely, you can also do everything wrong and unsafely and still escape unscathed and uninfected. Statistics may say that you're 99.9% likely to avoid disease transmission, but you never know when you are that 0.1%.

    There are lists of behaviors to avoid (i.e. unprotected anal sex, sharing needles, etc.) and ones to follow (i.e. using condoms, knowing you and your sexual partner's status, etc.), but even by following those lists, it doesn't necessarily mean you will never become infected with HIV.

    The take-away message is simply this: Be aware of risk, and be more thoughtful and careful than not in your sexual activity.

  2. People who have been infected for less than three months are most likely to be infectious and most likely to falsely test negative.

    If you are sexually active, get tested regularly, and actively discuss mutual testing status with any sexual partners you have.

  3. You can make a difference. If you have HIV/AIDS, consider volunteer opportunities in research studies and clinical trials for treatments and vaccines. If you don't (or even if you do), volunteer with a hospice. Attend local fundraisers. Support your local HIV/AIDS organization. Simply do something to create positive change in you and other people's lives.
Here are some good resources on HIV/AIDS issues:

2 comments:

  1. MY NAME IS DORIS ALFRED FROM SOUTH AFRICA...I SAW THIS COMMENT ON POSITIVE BLOGS AND I WILL LOVE TO TELL EVERY BODY HOW MY STATUS CHANGES TO NEGATIVE, AND AM NOW A LIVING WITNESS OF IT AND I THINK ITS A SHAME ON ME IF I DON'T SHARE THIS LOVELY STORY WITH OTHER PEOPLE INFeCTED WITH THIS DEADLY VIRUS...,HIV HAS BEEN ONGOING IN MY FAMILY... I LOST BOTH PARENTS TO HIV,. AND IT IS SO MUCH PAIN IVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET OVER.. AS WE ALL KNOW MEDICALLY THERE IS NO SOLUTION TO IT..AND MEDICATION IS VERY EXPENSIVE..SO SOMEONE INTRODUCED ME TO A NATIVE MEDICAL PRACTITIONER IN AFRICA..I HAD A JOB THERE TO EXECUTE SO I TOOK TIME TO CHECK OUT ON HIM.I SHOWED HIM ALL MY TESTS AND RESULTS.. I WAS ALREADY DIAGNOSED WITH HIV AND IT WAS ALREADY TAKING ITS TOWL ON ME.. I HAD SPENT THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS SO I DECIDED TO TRY HIM OUT...I WAS ON HIS DOSAGE FOR 3 WEEKS. ALTHOUGH I DIDNT BELIEVE IN IT, I WAS JUST TRYING IT OUT OF FRUSTRATION... AND AFTER 2 WEEKS, I WENT FOR NEW TESTS... AND YOU WONT BELIEVE THAT 5 DIFFERENT DOCTORS CONFIRMED IT THAT AM NEGATIVE..IT WAS LIKE A DREAM,,I NEVER BELIEVE AIDS HAS CURE..AM NOW NEGATIVE,,AM A LIVING WITNESS..I DONT KNOW HOW TO THANK THIS MAN... I JUST WANT TO HELP OTHERS IN ANY WAY I CAN..HAVE JOINED MANY FORUMS AND HAVE POSTED THIS TESTIMONIES AND ALOT OF PEOPLE HAS MAIL AND CALLED THIS MAN ON PHONE AND AFTER 2 MONTHS THEY ALL CONFIRMED NEGATIVE..BBC NEWS TOOK IT LIVE AND EVERY.. HOPE HE HELPS YOU OUT.. EVERYBODY SAW IT AND ITS NOW OUT IN PAPERS AND MAGAZINES THAT THERE'S NATIVE CURE FOR HIV AND ALL WITH THE HELP OF THIS MAN,,HAVE TRIED MY OWN PARTS AND ALL LEFT WITH YOU,,IF YOU LIKE TAKE IT OR NOT..GOD KNOWS HAVE TRIED MY BEST.ABOUT 97 PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED NEGATIVE THROUGH ME..AND THEY SEND MAILS TO THANKS ME AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED NEGATIVE,,THIS MAN IS REAL..DON'T MISS THIS CHANCE,,HIV IS A DEADLY VIRUS,,GET RID OF IT NOW..

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