RE: HIV … Are We Failing Gay Men in America?

A recent article on has us all thinking, have we put our health on the back burner?  Has our fight for other aspects of LGBT concerns overshadowed the battle for our health? Are we focusing on love, money, and rights before living a healthy life?

Here are some excerpts from Tyler Curry's piece found in HIV Equal Online:

A new research analysis organized by the Strategic Multisite Initiative for the Identification, Linkage and Engagement in Care of HIV infected youth (SMILE) reported that young people ages 13 to 24 now account for a quarter of new HIV infections, with only seven percent of youth in the study reaching undetectable viral levels after diagnosis. This number, which is far below the national undetectable average of 30 percent, gives insight as to why HIV infection is up 132.5 percent among young gay men in the same age range.

 This inconvenient stain on the gay rights report card demonstrates a glaring omission in our advocacy work. While we have been teaching young gay men the importance of business, family and law, sexual health has been all but omitted from the curriculum.

 In honor of the seven percent, here are seven ways we are failing young gay men in America.

1. Same-sex safe-sex Education. What's that?

Since sex education materials often assume that a student is heterosexual, there is no such thing as same-sex education in the public school system, and there is also little political momentum to include it.  …

2. Do as we say, not as we do.

Wherever there is media content on HIV, there are a group of older men who chastise young people for not “knowing better.” Since many of these young men where born at the same time or after the first protease inhibitor was released to treat HIV, we can hardly expect them to just “know.”  …

3. HIV-related content must only be for HIV-positive people.

Save for the PrEP advocates, it can often seem as if the only people who are concerned with safer sex are people who are already HIV-positive. …

4. "They just don't care if they get it."

There is an annoying but persistent sentiment that older generations have about younger gay men and their relationship with HIV. It is that young gay men know about their risks, they just don’t care if they catch it or not. But how could they know about said risks if they have never been educated on them? …

5. Half-baked safer-sex messaging.

Safe sex messaging still has a major presence in the gay community, but it can often be so vague that it barely makes an impact. Slogans like “know your status” and “get tested” are great, but they fail to connect with the young guy who receives an HIV-positive result. …

6. Becoming our parents when it comes to PrEP.

When HIV first began to spread in the 80s, the last thing a young gay man needed was a lesson in morality. Yet that is exactly what the gay community got. There was a general public undertone of “that’s what you get” that permeated HIV messaging until it began to pop up in the heterosexual population. Today, something similar is happening with the HIV prevention pill known as PrEP, except the lesson in morality is often coming from within the gay community itself. …

7. Leaving the fight too soon.

I think we can all agree that the fight for marriage equality was way more fun than the fight against HIV. So after the medication improved and people could live if they really wanted to, gay rights shifted from the right to live to the right to live happily ever after. …

As mentioned, these are excerpts from Curry's piece, but they should make us think.  I do recommend going back to his full article at HIV Equal Online and read his full opinion.

Was the fight for marriage easier to be a part of?  The light at the end of that tunnel has to be closer than the end of HIV.  We pick our battles too often on which one is easier to win, easier to make headway, the one that will be the quickest.  Will we pick the next fight to focus on based on those parameters as well? 

Do you think we have lessened our focus on HIV?  Are we failing Gay Men in America?


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