Archive for January 2017

Six things you need to know for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

January 31, 2017

From thebody.com

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, observed every year on February 7, is a good time to remind the general public of the racial disparities in HIV infection that persist in the United States. Year after year, African-Americans continue to shoulder the heaviest burden of HIV.

According to Millett, to effectively address the racial disparities in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S., we need to continue raising awareness about how HIV

Greg Millett (Credit: amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research)

Greg Millett (Credit: amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research)

disproportionately affects the black community, urge our policymakers to prioritize HIV prevention and treatment resources to the hardest hit communities, such as black gay men, and improve care for HIV-positive black women and injecting drug users.“If you don’t have access to healthcare and you’re HIV-positive, you’re less likely to be on medication or virally suppressed, and therefore more likely to transmit HIV,” said amfAR vice president and director of public policy Greg Millett. “We also have to do a better job of reducing HIV stigma because it keeps people from being tested for HIV, and it keeps people who are HIV-positive from seeking care because they’re afraid they’ll be discriminated against. And that is what continues to fuel the epidemic.”

Discrimination, stigma, poverty, and lack of access to healthcare contribute to the disproportionate burden of HIV among black Americans. This is most notably the case in regions with large black populations like the American South where approximately half of the nation’s new HIV infections occur, with black Americans accounting for nearly 80 percent of them. In general, African-Americans are less likely than whites to have private health insurance.

Read the full article.

Philly LGBTQ conference addresses deadly stigmatization of HIV

January 26, 2017

From Newsworks

“We can find a way to end HIV. We got heart, and maybe that’s enough to fight the racism, stigma, homophobia, gender inequity …. We got to stick together. We got to stay strong.”

Performer Todrick Hall

Performer Todrick Hall

Todrick Hall sang these words, kicking off “Convergence: Forging the Path to End HIV,” a panel discussion plenary at the five-day Creating Change Conference, hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force in Center City Philadelphia. Hall, an openly gay and popular YouTube entertainer, received great applause from the audience.

The aim of the discussion was to address the stigma surrounding HIV in hopes of eliminating the virus.

When compared to other countries, the United States has a realtively low suppression rate, which is the number of people living with HIV but undergoing treatment, thereby decreasing the likelihood of spreading the virus.

Panelist Dr. Richard Elion of George Washington University explained that, “[In] Uganda, the rate of suppression runs at about 55 percent, compared to 30 percent in the United States. So clearly, our country is not doing something that we need to be looking at.”

Elion said there is more to decreasing the spread of HIV than affordable diagnosis and treatment options, and that combating the stigma of HIV is vital.

Read the full article. 

An open letter by Tyler Curry

January 6, 2017

From Advocate.com

Before I sprouted out of the closet as a little gay sapling, my mother had never met a single homosexual person in her life. And in the suffocating Southern Christian confines of Texas, her limited perception was open to the most horrific creative interpretation. The nightmares of evil drag queens and insidious perverts quickly faded away, however, once her son told her that he liked boys.

The majority of gay men know how it feels to secretly live in the presence of someone who is blindly afraid of you, yet that blind fear is exactly what we inflict on HIV-positive men. It is because of this that I write an open letter to gay men young and old.

Your friend is living with HIV.

dear-gay-menx750It doesn’t matter who you are or where you hail from; if you are a man who kisses other men, someone you know is HIV-positive. Hopefully, this is already yesterday’s news because you live in a collective space where your friends are not afraid to discuss their love and sex lives, regardless of status. But if you care to argue that this is a false narrative, then you may be creating barriers for your HIV-positive friends without even knowing it. This isn’t just a hindrance to their mental health; it is also a risk to your own HIV-negative status. If you don’t acknowledge the reality that your friends may be living with HIV, you probably think that you’ve never slept with an HIV-positive person either.

In the first six months after my diagnosis, I was petrified to tell my best friend about my status. As much as I knew he wouldn’t judge me or toss our friendship aside, something he had previously said kept ringing in my ears:

“I would never date someone with HIV. I just don’t think I could get over it.”

A world where my best buddy would reject someone just like me was a world I could live without. Yet I tucked it inside and hid something from my friend to avoid any stigma from someone I loved. When I did tell him my status and the reason for my hesitation, he was immediately overcome with unquestionable support and complete remorse. And just as happens with anyone who made a judgment before getting to know someone, his benign HIV stigma has become undetectable.

Although most days I do feel like a rainbow unicorn, my story and my status are nothing unique. If you are a gay man, or any other person who knows more than a handful of gays, then you know a person with HIV. Instead of trying to figure out who it could be, think about how you would feel if one of your closest friends were judged, rejected, and ridiculed for his status.

Or worse: How do you feel if one of your friends is remaining silent because he feels you might judge and reject him as well?

HIV isn’t exclusive to the LGBT community, but it is the backbone of its legacy of tragedy and strength. Today, HIV doesn’t have to rob a person of anything in their life, but only if they are surrounded by an educated and loving community that understands a disease is not a characteristic or a flaw. It’s just another thing to overcome, and the LGBT community overcomes its struggles together.

Be a part of that community. Be a friend, a lover, and an ally to people with HIV.