21 November 2014

HIV Is Still A Gay Disease In The US

When many of the gay and bisexual men died in the mid-1980s from HIV/AIDS, political strategists realized they had to make a choice. Acknowledge that the epidemic was disproportionately impacting gay and bisexual men — a despised bunch in the U.S. until now — or reposition the epidemic as a threat to every American.

The decision was to re-cast the threat of the epidemic. By changing the discussion about HIV from what gay and bisexual men were doing sexually to the risk of "innocent" victims, Congress was unable to ignore the crisis anymore and allotted huge budget to fighting it. They tried to ignore the obvious fact that the epidemic as the result of the exotic lives of gay and bisexual men.

When the right wing claims HIV was a gay disease, gay leaders recoiled in rage. HIV, they said, was everyone’s problem. In a big picture snapshot that is accurate. But in the U.S. it’s a lie. The virus is safely encamped in the bodies of men who have sex with other men (a term of epidemiology coined by scientists, which makes trans women — deeply affected by HIV — invisible in the epidemic).

Now, the numbers have clearly showed to everyone that the dreaded disease is impacting mostly gays, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

MSM represents approximately 2 percent of the United States population, yet they are the population most severely affected by HIV. In 2010, young gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24 years) accounted for 72 percent of new HIV infections among all persons aged 13 to 24, and 30 percent of new infections among all gay and bisexual men. At the end of 2010, an estimated 489,121 (56 percent) persons living with an HIV diagnosis in the US were gay and bisexual men, or gay and bisexual men who also inject drugs.

American politicians framed the discussion about HIV for lawmakers in terms of public health; as a public health crisis, not a gay community crisis per se even if the truth is the other way around. They tried to emphasize the impact of HIV on non-gay people, specifically women and children even when numbers reveal that the impact is high among MSM.

The following numbers also say that:
  • "At the end of 2010, of the estimated 872,990 persons living with an HIV diagnosis, 440,408 (50 percent) were gay and bisexual men. Forty-seven percent of gay and bisexual men living with an HIV diagnosis were white, 31 percent were black/African American, and 19 percent were Hispanic/Latino.
  • In 2011, gay and bisexual men accounted for 52 percent of estimated AIDS diagnoses among all adults and adolescents in the US. Of the estimated 16,694 AIDS diagnoses among gay and bisexual men, 39 percent were in blacks/African Americans; 34 percent were in whites; and 23 percent were in Hispanics/Latinos.
  • By the end of 2010, an estimated 302,148 gay and bisexual men with an AIDS diagnosis had died in the United States since the beginning of the epidemic, representing 48 percent of all deaths of persons with AIDS."