When new infections among young Black gay men increase by nearly fifty percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter.
—President Barack Obama, Dec. 1, 2011
Submitted by National Minority AIDS Council
We will never end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US until we dramatically lessen the burden of HIV among gay and bisexual men, particularly young men.
Across race, age, and geography, gay and bisexual men remain most vulnerable to HIV infection in the United States. Gay and bisexual men are the only group of people in which new HIV infections are increasing each year. They represent only 2 percent of the US population, yet account for 64 percent of new infections. Young gay and bisexual men aged 13-29 comprise less than 1 percent of the US population, but ac-count for 27 percent of all new infections. Black young men are especially hard hit by the AIDS epidemic, experiencing a shocking 48 percent increase in the number of new HIV infections between 2006 and 2009.
Despite alarming infection rates, the response to HIV/AIDS among young gay and bisexual men has never been adequate. Allocation of prevention, research, and other resources to focus on gay men overall or young men, in particular, has never been equal to their proportion of the epidemic. Negative experiences and other barriers to accessing health care have left too many young men estranged from the services and institutions that could support healthy sexual, physical, and emotional development. Family rejection, social isolation, homophobia, and absent legal protections have perpetuated a cycle of homelessness, unemployment, substance use, and poverty among the most vulnerable.
Call to Action: Lessen HIV burden among young gay and bisexual men in the United States
To achieve the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the US – (1) to reduce new HIV infections, (2) to improve access to health care, and (3) to eliminate health disparities – particular attention must be paid to young gay and bisexual men, for too many of whom HIV infection has become a rite of passage to adulthood. We can and must respond to HIV/AIDS in a way that respects and cares for all people living with HIV, while recognizing the unique impact of HIV on young gay and bisexual men.
We have never been better equipped to mount a comprehensive response to HIV among young gay and bisexual men. Social marketing campaigns and affirming messages from the highest levels of leadership are beginning to validate years of hard work promoting equality and dignity. The Affordable Care Act will offer health care to millions who have been denied access for decades. Scientific research has demonstrated both sustained health improvement and a dramatic reduction in transmission among people living with HIV who initiate treatment early after diagnosis.
We can achieve an AIDS-free generation for ALL young gay and bisexual men in the United States, but only if we make the commitment to change today.
Sign on to this initiative by clicking here. Both individual and organizational endorsement are welcomed: http://alturl.com/zojpo
A CALL TO ACTION
We, the undersigned, call on ALL AMERICANS to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US by demonstrating to young gay and bisexual men that their lives matter. We call on:
POLICYMAKERS to ensure that all health care services are tailored to the diverse needs of young gay and bisexual men of all colors, with HIV prevention resources dedicated to this population, commensurate with their representation in the US epidemic. We also call on you to look across the spectrum of policies and services – from schools to housing to civil rights protections – and require that they foster supportive and healthy environments that enable young gay and bisexual men to thrive, whether or not they are living with HIV.
GAY COMMUNITY LEADERS to elevate HIV as a priority for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, recognizing the heavy impact of HIV on young gay and bisexual men, particularly young men of color, as an important equity issue in the LGBT community. As at the beginning of the epidemic, the LGBT community must engage in thoughtful dialogue about why HIV remains such a dominant challenge, and foster the community cohesion that gives young gay and bisexual men the support needed to overcome stigma and homophobia and to adopt healthy behaviors, irrespective of HIV status.
BLACK AND LATINO COMMUNITY LEADERS to respond to HIV with equanimity across the community, fighting with equal passion for young gay and bisexual men, heterosexual men and women, and children. Your leadership is essential. We ask you to follow President Obama’s example and embrace young gay and bisexual men as family and community members who need to know that they are not forgotten, and that their lives matter.
PHYSICIANS AND RESEARCHERS to make HIV testing and treatment available to all young gay and bisexual men, and to encourage youth who are living with HIV to initiate and sustain HIV treatment that allows them to lead healthy lives. Additionally, we need a comprehensive HIV research agenda for young gay and bisexual men.
CORPORATIONS AND PRIVATE FUNDERS to review your current portfolios and bolster your HIV donor support to programs and services for young gay and bisexual men.
PARENTS, FAMILY, AND EDUCATORS to love your gay children, unconditionally. You must support your gay youth, and recognize that anti-gay messages harm young people and further the spread of HIV. Parents and educators must insist that all young people receive medically accurate, age-appropriate education that seeks to promote healthy living and delay sexual debut, but that does not spread anti-gay or anti-HIV stigma.
FAITH COMMUNITY to affirm the value, equality, and dignity of young LGBT people, including their right and need to have access to accurate information about HIV/AIDS and how to protect themselves. Spirituality has an important and powerful influence on young people’s self-esteem and can positively or negatively impact development of healthy behavior. Inclusive approaches that recognize our universal humanity and provide sanctuary where young gay and bisexual men can feel accepted and loved are urgently needed.
YOUNG GAY AND BISEXUAL MEN to be proud of who you are, to work to achieve your dreams, to love whomever you want, to be empowered to have fulfilling sexual relationships, to lead positive and healthy lives. For those living with HIV, consider starting treatment right away. For those who do not know their status or are HIV-negative, get tested for HIV and adopt practices that will keep you HIV-free. Your life matters.
This is a promising time in the response to HIV/AIDS in the United States. Both Democrats and Republicans can be proud of their support for domestic and global HIV initiatives. The Obama Administration has delivered our nation’s first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the Affordable Care Act will expand health care access widely. We must seize this moment to take critical steps toward ending the HIV epidemic in the United States.
As we have done before, we can mobilize broad parts of American society to fight HIV/AIDS. We must renew those efforts now to demonstrate to young gay and bisexual men that their lives matter.
Sign on to this initiative, both individual and organizational endorsement are welcomed: http://alturl.com/zojpo