Today, many people in the HIV community and beyond will observe the fifth annual National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. In the midst of HIV testing events, conferences, and other events in local communities, it is appropriate to stop today and remember the place of men who have sex with men (MSM) in the ongoing history of the epidemic.
Just over 30 years ago, on June 5, 1981, the report of a new unnamed illness affecting five gay men trained the world’s attention on the epidemic. Since then, the disparate impact of HIV on MSM has been an integral part of the history of the epidemic (check out this timeline).
To recognize that history, five years ago, the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) founded this HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in order to “help gay men remember how much we have accomplished together in the fight against HIV/AIDS, remember the quarter-million lovers and brothers we have lost, and renew our commitment to ending what is now an endable epidemic.”
We have reached a historic point in the response to this epidemic. Today, on National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we are using new tools and new approaches to reach gay men with HIV prevention, testing, and treatment information.
Recently the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC) held a Twitter town hall for over 100 young Black MSM (YBMSM) and service providers who work with them. NBGMAC used Twitter to increase awareness of health policy issues affecting YBMSM and to mobilize Black gay men to prevent new infections and end the epidemic.
The Federal Digital Strategy encourages us to take a new approach to providing access to information and services–and to ask ourselves about how we can use new media to extend the reach of our work. How are you using new media to improve your outreach to MSM at risk for, or living with, HIV/AIDS?
I encourage you to look at recent developments and resources that inform how our nation addresses the prevention, care, and treatment needs of MSM. A few examples:
- The National HIV/AIDS Strategy calls for high-impact prevention efforts to make a difference in the epidemic among MSM (among other key populations). National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an opportunity to review the Strategy’s call to action and to help us find the role each of us can play in making the Strategy real.
- Many scientific presentations at last summer’s International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) are informing our knowledge of what works with men who are at higher risk for being infected or affected by HIV. Among the relevant sessions was the special symposium “The Lancet 2012 Special Theme Series: Men Who Have Sex with Men and HIV.” Check out this post to learn more about the session, including the research presented by Greg Millett, Senior Scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and CDC/HHS Liaison to White House Office of National AIDS Policy.In conference sessions and in the conference halls, attendees talked about the science and concerns around the healthcare needs of MSM. For a sample, listen to a conversation about addressing HIV disparities among black MSM between Dr. Ron Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases and Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy at HHS, and Terrance Moore, Director of Policy and Health Equity at the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD ).
- CDC issued interim guidance on using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection among MSM. CDC also recently released a fact sheet on PrEP (PDF).
- CDC’s Testing Makes Us Stronger campaign assists local service providers and advocates by producing messages and materials to reach MSM with testing messages. CDC also offers this fact sheet on the reach of the epidemic among gay men (PDF).
With these and other resources—and the continued collaborative efforts of federal and non-federal partners— our history books will someday note the achievement of a year where our national health observances reflect the widest successes in our response to the epidemic among MSM.
You can follow the conversation about National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Twitter at #NGMHAAD .