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HRC Staff Members Reflect On Changing Face of HIV/AIDS

Roderick is a 22-year-old aspiring veterinarian. He is also one of the many young Black and Latino men quickly becoming the new face of HIV/AIDS. In a front-page story for the New York Times, Donald G. McNeil Jr. explains how, “despite years of progress in preventing and treating HIV in the middle class, the number of new infections nationwide remains stubbornly stuck at 50,000 a year — more and more of them in these men, who make up less than 1 percent of the population.”   

McNeil’s piece underscores the disproportionate burden HIV/AIDS places on the LGBT community, particularly young gay and bisexual men and transgender women of color. Below three HRC staff members share their reflections on being part of the changing face of HIV/AIDS.

“I can’t help but wonder: how do I prevent a person’s circumstances from determining their risk of infection?”Noël Gordon, HRC Foundation Coordinator

“Rarely do I stop and take time to think about where I am in relation to where I’ve been. But reading today’s article in the NYT brought back a flood of memories. It reminded me of the fear I felt coming out to my ardently Catholic family; of the challenges I had getting tested with little to no health insurance; of the images I saw as a child – of gay and bisexual men with nowhere to go but homeless shelters. It’s been quite some time since I have thought about any of those things, largely because I’m fortunate to live and work in a city with people who support me. But in stopping to reflect on my life now, I can’t help but wonder: how do I prevent a person’s circumstances from determining their risk of infection?” 

“It is unfortunate that intolerance drives young black and Latino men out of their homes and into living conditions in which HIV poses a greater risk."Marcos Garcia, Health & Aging Coordinator

“It is unfortunate that intolerance drives young black and Latino men out of their homes and into living conditions in which HIV poses a greater risk.  While we need to increase the number and efficacy of HIV support groups and programs, we also need to equip those who will be teaching others about the risks of HIV with tools to handle audiences that may stigmatize the disease. This way they can be prepared to encounter, defuse and educate in these conversations, working to end the cycle of ignorance and giving men of color, like me, a chance to have a place to call home.”

“This article has given me the courage to search for inner strength to love more unconditionally as my faith calls me to, and work for a future without HIV/AIDS.” Michael Toumayan, HRC Religion & Faith Manager

 “It’s frustrating that we, as people of color, who understand and value the right to (dignified) life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, can’t seem to get past the wall of illiteracy and intolerance. Not only are we denying dignity of life for members of our society who are HIV positive, but our stigmatization of HIV/AIDS is contributing to the spread of the virus among an already vulnerable segment of the U.S. population. Despite this, the article has given me the courage to search for inner strength to love more unconditionally as my faith calls me to, and work for a future without HIV/AIDS.”

HRC is doubling down on our efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the stigma surrounding it. From increased public education and outreach to continued lobbying in support of legislation like the recently passed HIV Organ Equity (HOPE) Act, HRC is dedicated to making sure the rising tide of LGBT equality lifts all boats.

 

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