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Homophobia is a leading cause of HIV transmission for MSM

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, October 11, 2010

Updated: Monday, October 11, 2010 13:10


When HIV/AIDS first got media attention in this country, 41 men in San Francisco and New York City, who identified as gay or bisexual, were the first to be recognized as the carriers of the virus. This prompted the citizens of the United States and its politicians to see HIV/AIDS as a ‘gay disease’. Throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s, more and more people continued to die from complications of AIDS, including young hemophiliac Ryan White. It wasn’t until Magic Johnson, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers, came out as HIV-positive that HIV was a virus that could infect and affect everyone.

Since then, life-saving drugs have been able to help those who can afford it, to live longer lives with the virus. While this is a great advancement for those living with HIV, it also sends the wrong message to many young people, including young men who have sex with men, that it doesn’t matter if you get the virus, as long as there are HIV medications. This is not just a message sent to men who have sex with men, but to all young people.

There are a lot of factors that can lead a young man, who engages in sexual acts with another man, to contract HIV. Prevention and education efforts have always included MSM (men who have sex with men) in their efforts along-side other programs that focus on intravenous drug users and HIV transmission through heterosexual contact. While we might be making progress in helping people live longer with HIV, there is a scary, yet true reality for MSM in this country.

The CDC released a report a few weeks back that stated nearly 1 in 5 MSM in 21 US cities have HIV/AIDS, 19 percent, while nearly half are unaware of their HIV status. The rates are higher for African-American men and Hispanic men who have HIV/AIDS. Young MSM were also stated the hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. This goes beyond whether or not MSM are using condoms (but that is important), it begs the question, why are rates so much higher for MSM than heterosexual men? I guarantee you, some reading this article will say, “Well the individual needs to just a wear a condom”. Okay sure, of course there needs to be condom usage to prevent spreading the virus. But I question those who say that to look deeper into the issue and ask why there isn’t condom usage, and why the spread of HIV.

The reason I do not say gay or bisexual men is because that some of the men who are having sex with men are not identifying as gay or bisexual, and this is not just in the prison systems either. The CDC and other prevention efforts must confront the fear of those men who are scared of getting tested, and listen to their concerns. We cannot assume that they want a certain program or have certain needs because of who they sleep with.  We must confront homophobia in all communities and make it so MSM want to receive HIV/AIDS testing, and if they are positive, receive HIV/AIDS services.

I have only listed a few major factors for MSM and HIV transmission, but there are hundreds more. This is an issue of equality in services, and dismantling the fear that comes along with being a MSM in this country. Many will continue to blame MSM for having sex and call them promiscuous, but I want to take a vastly different approach and look at why MSM, including the larger GLBT community, and homophobia and how leads a HIV positive status. We cannot continue just throwing condoms at people and expect them to use them. We need a multi-faceted approach, and investigate the social determinants of disease. If we change environments and make them conducive to health for all, I guarantee you, all rates of HIV/AIDS and STIs will decrease. I’m in this fight and struggle, who wants to join me?

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