Gay-Related Immune Deficiency

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Today, on World AIDS Day, look at some of these statistics.

— “While gay men make up just 2 percent of the U.S. population, they account for two thirds (66 percent) of new HIV infections, a majority (56 percent) of people living with HIV, and more than half (55 percent) of all AIDS deaths since the epidemic’s beginning. It is estimated that 12-13 percent of gay and bisexual men in the U.S. are HIV-positive, including one in five in many major U.S. cities. Gay men are the only group in the country among whom new infections are on the rise”

— “…just three in ten (30 percent) say they were tested in the last year, including 19 percent who say their most recent test was within the past 6 months. Fully three in ten (30 percent) say they have never been tested for HIV”

— “Only about a quarter (26 percent) know about PrEP, a recently approved medication that people who are HIV-negative can take to lower their risk of becoming infected. Just one in ten know someone, including themselves, who has taken PrEP, and eight in ten say they have heard only a little or nothing at all about the new medication.” [Source]

They remind me of this quote from Patrick Moore, author of “Beyond Shame”:

“Even though infection rates continue to rise in our young men, exhaustion and the empty promises of seeing ourselves represented in the mass media have lured us, despite American statistical evidence to the contrary, into saying ‘AIDS is no longer a gay disease.’ We desperately want to believe that the gathering storm clouds will break elsewhere this time. Inherent in our ability to ignore the continuing influence of AIDS on gay life in American is our systemic effort to strip gay life of all associations with the radical sexuality of the past. If there is no sex, no memory of sex, and no current sign of sexuality, then we can hope that AIDS will pass by our doorway this time.”

When it was first noticed in the early 1980s, doctors referred to this mysterious illness as GRID, Gay Related Immune Deficiency.

Today, we seem to be doing anything that we can make HIV/AIDS seem like something that anyone can get. And that’s true, anyone can and does contract HIV.

But, HIV/AIDS is still a gay disease. We contract it. Infections in young gay, bi, queer men continue to rise. Young queer men of color are especially likely to be diagnosed with HIV.

HIV/AIDS is still a gay-related immune deficiency. It is part of the LGBTQ experience in America. It is our job to stop it. Not by squashing all sexuality within our lives and cultures, but by embracing it.

I am a HIV- man with HIV+ loved ones. I take my pill every day. So do they. HIV is part of our daily life, whether it is from treatment, prevention, or fear of being infected.

If you’re negative, get tested. Talk to your doctor about the latest medications for prevention. No amount of self-hate. No amount of saying you will have sex differently next time will change your chance of being infected. Stop the stigma against our HIV+ brothers.

If you’re positive, talk to your doctor about the latest medications, many of which have lower side effects. Tell your HIV- friends about PrEP.

HIV/AIDS is a gay disease. Let’s use our cultures, with their resilience, vibrancy, and power to stop it.

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