Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day.
Why HIV/AIDS is a LGBTQ issue:
HIV/AIDS and the LGBTQ community have a long history of association. When HIV/AIDS was first coming into public awareness in the early 1980s, it was known as both GRIDS (Gay-related Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and the 4-H disease (as it was thought to exist only in Haitians, homosexuals, people with hemophilia and heroin users). Though HIV/AIDS soon proved to exist well beyond these communities, the stigma has remained. In T.E.A.C.H. workshops, participants have told that HIV/AIDS is a “gay disease”, that HIV is created when two men have sex, that HIV can only be transmitted through anal sex. Beyond T.E.A.C.H. workshops, we see the same type of stigma all around us: in the assumptions of strangers, the statements of politicians, the ongoing ban on blood donations from men who have (or have had) sex with other men.
HIV/AIDS does still impact LGBTQ people. In 2009, just under 42% of HIV transmission was attributed to men who have sex with other men. The statistics around HIV/AIDS in trans communities are inadequate, but the numbers are known to be high. These individuals are a part of our communities.
Why HIV/AIDS is not a LGBTQ issue:
Around the world, approximately 34 million people are HIV+.
In North America, approximately 1.3 million people are HIV+.
In Toronto, approximately 17000 people are HIV+.
42% of new HIV infections are among youth, ages 15 to 24.
People of all ages, nationalities, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities and identities can be HIV+.
People with HIV/AIDS are a part of all of our communities.
Why HIV/AIDS is your issue:
Stigma hurts all of us.
It is no coincidence that HIV disproportionately affects marginalized people: people living in poverty, women, sex workers, youth, members of the LGBTQ community. When we live in secrecy or shame, when we are denied education, when we lack resources, when we are hurt by those around us, our health suffers. Whether we are HIV+ or not, access promotes health and oppression denies access.
Stigma hurts when people lose their jobs, friends, family or communities because of fear and judgement. It hurts when people are afraid to be close to each other, touch each other, love each other.
Many HIV+ people know this hurt. Many LGBTQ people know it. Many others do as well.
We have the opportunity to do things differently. We can learn more, we can challenge our assumptions, we can build awareness and challenge fear.
Today is World AIDS Day. What are you going to do about it?
All stats taken from the World Health Organization (www.who.int) and AIDS Committee of Toronto (www.actoronto.org)
Also take a look at Planned Parenthood Toronto’s Poz Youth Manifesto.