Despite treatment advances, the crisis is not over
Friday, Sept. 27 marks National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Originally conceived by NAPWA (National Association of People With AIDS) in 2008 as a way to call attention to the continuing plight of gay men coping with AIDS, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stepped forward to remind us that while AIDS has become manageable in many ways, there is still no known cure.
While the impact of the AIDS pandemic has crossed multiple barriers around the globe, gay men remain at the center of the U.S. epidemic. More than 30 years after the first cases of AIDS were reported, gay and bisexual men account for a large majority of all Americans living with HIV and nearly two-thirds of new infections.
According to the CDC’s HIV/AIDS Prevention representative Dr. David Purcell, the number of infections for men who have sex with men remains staggering.
"Gay and bisexual men represent only two percent of the population," Purcell explains. "Yet in infection rates, they are over 60 percent of the population at large. Especially in young men of color. In the gay community, they represent over 55 percent of the newly infected, and there has been a particular increase over the last five years."
Purcell suggests there are many driving factors that place gay men at higher risk. "Many are unaware of their status, so infecting partners happens more often. There is still a stigma attached to the disease for many individuals and oftentimes homophobia, lack of insurance and concerns about confidentiality have deterred some men from seeking the help they need."
The CDC also points to apathy as a challenge men in the gay community face, and underestimating the impact AIDS can actually have on their lives. While younger gay men think HIV is easily manageable with medication, they don’t always have the foresight to realize the long-term ramifications of possibly taking medication every day, for the rest of their lives and the potential side-effects the drugs can have.
"Young men is where it is evolving," Purcell continues. "While the LGBT community has a lot on its plate these days, I think it’s time to reengage in the fight. Action is needed at every level. It’s important to understand the risk. Reduce the number of partners you have. Practice safer sex. We don’t want another epidemic on our hands like we had in the last generation. Testing is one of the first and most important steps."
In recognition of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, AID Atlanta, Georgia Equality and The Rush Center will present a screening of the 1999 Gay Film Classic, "Flawless" on Sept. 27.
The event will be hosted by Coordinators of GO Atlanta, Deeper Love Project and Evolution Project, the gay men’s prevention programs of AID Atlanta. A community discussion regarding HIV/AIDS and the stigma surrounding the disease and those affected by it will take place along with the screening.
Admission to the film is free and will start at 7:00 p.m. at The Phillip Rush Center, located at 1530 Dekalb Ave.