HRC Blog

A Call to Action to Lessen the Burden of HIV Among Gay and Bisexual Men

Daniel MontoyaThe following post comes from Daniel Montoya, Deputy Executive Director of the National Minority AIDS Council:

The return of the International AIDS Conference to the United States for the first time in nearly 25 years resonates on both a professional and personal level for me. It emblemizes how far we, as both a community and nation, have come in the fight against this epidemic while underscoring the extent of work that still remains.

As a gay man living with HIV for almost 25 years, I have witnessed the evolving role HIV/AIDS has played in the landscape of my community. Gay men, particularly young gay urban men, once jumped on cars in their cities’ streets to demand an end to the silence and inaction around the disease that was killing them. Gradually, however, improved drug treatments and reduced deaths began to fuel a growing sense of hope—and, unfortunately, a growing sense of apathy followed.

For too many young gay and bisexual men, HIV infection has become a rite of passage to adulthood. Gay and bisexual men represent the only statistical risk group in which HIV infection rates are rising. This is unacceptable. Young gay and bisexual men aged 13-29 constitute less than one percent of the general population but account for 64% of new infections. This is unacceptable. Black young gay men are especially ravaged by the epidemic and shouldered a 48% infection rate increase between the years 2006 and 2009. This is unacceptable. 

Much like the return of the International AIDS Conference to the US, our community and country must return to pledging commitment to the health and lives of young gay and bisexual men. A Call to Action addressing HIV among this demographic has been issued to coalesce response among policy makers, gay community leaders, Black and Latino community leaders, physicians and researchers, corporations and private funders, family and educators, faith community, as well as young gay and bisexual men. The Call to Action acknowledges that social determinants—such as stigma, family rejection, social isolation and homophobia—play significant roles in keeping these young men vulnerable to health and other disparities. Its goal is to galvanize and mobilize the response of broad parts of American society to quell the rising tide of infections among young gay and bisexual men.

The Call to Action complements the Supreme Court’s recent upholding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which presents a seminal opportunity to extend greater health parity to young gay and bisexual men whose health is too often challenged by substance abuse, poverty and homelessness. The ACA offers a rare occasion to augment recent advances to promote equality and dignity throughout the greater GLBT community and localize them to a subset of health needs particular to young gay and bisexual men. The ACA will offer health care to thousands of young gay and bisexual men living with, and vulnerable to, HIV who have been denied access to care for decades. Because research has demonstrated that early diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection leads to sustained health improvement, as well as a dramatic reduction in transmission, young gay and bisexual men stand to benefit considerably from greater access to health care. Nonetheless, we must recognize the need for a renewed clarion call of commitment to the particular challenges young gay and bisexual men face that continue to place them in the crosshairs of our nation’s epidemic.

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. 

Daniel Montoya is Deputy Executive Director of the National Minority AIDS Council, an organization committed to developing leadership in communities of color to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Learn more about HRC’s involvement in the International AIDS Conference at hrc.org/aids2012.

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