HRC Blog

25th Annual World AIDS Day

AIDS ribbonPost submitted by Dan Rafter, Former HRC Associate Director of Communications

Today marks the 25th annual World AIDS Day. HRC President Chad Griffin joined AIDS United President and CEO Michael Kaplan in authoring a joint op-ed for the Huffington Post looking at the challenges we still face in addressing HIV/AIDS – particularly the obstacles within the LGBT community, and the dangerous stigmas that make prevention and education that much more difficult:

Social stigma, whether it be homophobia in the world at large, or HIV-related stigma within the gay community, limits our ability to tackle HIV/AIDS at all levels. This particularly holds true for LGBT Americans. Misinformation—and sometimes outright ignorance—have a negative impact on behavior.  Too often, the LGBT community has reinforced AIDS-related stigma with labels such as “clean” to refer to those uninfected. In addition, anti-LGBT bias breeds fear, causing individuals to hide their sexual identity. These combined forces drive the rising rates of HIV, particularly among young gay men, to alarming levels. 

…We’ve got to recommit ourselves as a country to changing the trajectory of this struggle. It cannot be done with scare tactics or outdated techniques. Nor do the calling-cards of the early struggle against HIV/AIDS—the images of our friends and family members lost to the first few years of the disease, the red ribbons, or the AIDS Memorial Quilt—have the same emotional resonance with the younger generation as they do with the older one.

Instead, today’s challenge is to tackle stigma head on.  We must address homophobia among youth and within schools, and aids-phobic attitudes within our own communities.  

…A decade ago, the thought of an AIDS-free generation would have been unimaginable. Now the challenge before us is to give the next generation the tools they need to make this vision a reality. We can do this by continuing efforts to dismantle barriers that deter, even briefly, LGBT youth from reaching their full potential. It’s a project on which LGBT and HIV/AIDS advocates should form a collaborative partnership, and, in tandem, we can dismantle the barriers of stigma and discrimination that have made combatting this disease needlessly difficult. If we do, our young people will benefit, and a generation that is free of HIV/AIDS will finally be within reach.  

Read the full piece. If you’re in the D.C. area, HRC is proud to partner with Whitman-Walker on a candlelight vigil at 5pm this evening in Dupont Circle. The vigil is an opportunity to reflect on the impact of HIV/AIDS, and to raise public awareness. Learn more.

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