Co-authored by Miguel Gomez, AIDS.gov Director
As Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month (June) approaches, we want to honor the LGBT community’s role in the response to HIV and share our commitment to combating the stigma and discrimination that still affects many LGBT people. Though we have made progress in addressing homophobia and HIV-related stigma, they are still realities for many of us, and fear of discrimination can cause members of the LGBT community to avoid learning their HIV status, disclosing their status, or accessing appropriate prevention or care services. We must use every available tool to combat stigma for all communities.
We know that LGBT people are more likely to use social media than the general population, and this has implications for our work. We’ve shared some of the ways that the LGBT community is using new and social media to share resources and respond to HIV. We’ll continue to do so, highlighting the work of some of our microgrant recipients who are working with the LGBT community, among others. The LGBT community is innovative and continues to develop creative solutions to address homophobia and HIV-related stigma. We are honored to keep sharing some of those efforts with you through this blog.
We also want to acknowledge that May 17 marked the International Day Against Homophobia, on which UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé spoke about the connection between homophobia and HIV, and amfAR announced awards to help grassroots groups address prejudice and HIV. Homophobia remains a barrier in the response to HIV around the world, and May 17 reminds us of the need to pause as we enter a month of celebration to reflect on the continued seriousness of the HIV epidemic in the LGBT community.
The CDC reports [editors note: this has been updated with the December 2013 Fact Sheet) that gay and bisexual men account for nearly half of the more than one million people living with HIV in the U.S. In addition, gay and bisexual men account for more than half of all new HIV infections in the U.S. each year — and are currently the only risk group in the U.S. in which new HIV infections are increasing. Though there is limited data available on HIV in the transgender and lesbian communities, we know that more services tailored to these communities are vitally important. And AIDS-related illnesses continue to claim the lives of too many gay or bisexual men. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 274,000 gay and bisexual men with AIDS have died. Black gay and bisexual men are one of the most disproportionately affected subgroups in the U.S.
This is unacceptable. Thirty years into the epidemic, we can and must do better. We must re-commit to reducing stigma and implementing targeted and appropriate prevention and care services, and celebrating all the members of our community for who they are. Our country and the LGBT community are diverse in every way, and our programs and services must be just as diverse.
As members of the AIDS.gov team who identify as gay and lesbian, this issue is deeply personal to us. For LGBT Pride month we want to share our commitment to responding to HIV and AIDS in the LGBT community, and encourage our colleagues and partners to continue to be creative and use all the tools at their disposal to reduce stigma related to sexuality and HIV.
And we’d love to hear from you — what does Pride Month mean for you? Are you planning events? How do you think you think new media could support outreach and work among the LGBT community?