Today is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. On this observance day, we encourage gay men to speak out about their experiences of living with, or being affected by, HIV.
At AIDS.gov, we’ve been proud to share these stories. Through our Positive Spin digital tool, we’ve featured the real stories of gay black men who have traveled the HIV continuum of care from diagnosis to viral suppression. We hope you will take some time to listen to their experiences.
We’ve also featured the stories of Dr. Rich Wolitski, Acting Director of the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP), who throughout the year has shared his insights as a gay man living with HIV. Here are some quotes from his blog posts:
- The work isn’t done yet: “It’s important to recognize and celebrate the incredible progress we’ve made, but we can’t afford to let up now. Too many lives remain at stake, and we still have work to do.” (January 22, 2016) [Note: Dr. Wolitski’s point is borne out by newly released data on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy indicators showing increased disparities in new diagnoses and HIV risk behaviors among gay/bisexual men.]
- Testing is critical: “I know that I wouldn’t be alive today if I had not been tested and found out that I was positive early in the course of my infection.” (June 27, 2016)
- Tools make a difference: “Now we also have tools (e.g., PrEP, PEP, and ‘treatment as prevention’) that can dramatically lower the number of new HIV infections.” (January 22, 2016)
- Early treatment matters: “Starting treatment early can stop HIV from progressing and bring down the unacceptably high rate of HIV-related deaths.” (January 22, 2016)
- Viral suppression is key: “For people living with HIV, getting the virus under control is the most important thing we can do. It’s the key to our own survival, reducing deaths, and preventing new infections.” (July 11, 2016)“The implications of the most recent data released at the International AIDS Conference regarding treatment as prevention and PrEP are starting to take hold. Follow-up of HPTN 052 found no cases of HIV transmission from someone who was virally suppressed, adding to the evidence from other studies.” (September 21, 2016)
- Stigma is still a major challenge: “More than 16,000 people with HIV die each year in the United States. Too many die because stigma and fear of being HIV positive stopped them from getting tested, or seeing a doctor about their HIV. Some dropped out of care because they experienced stigma in the health care system due to their HIV status, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, socioeconomic status, or drug use. Others died because they didn’t fill their prescriptions or take their HIV medications every day because they did not want anyone to know that they had the virus.” (February 29, 2016)
- We must follow the science: “If we embrace these new data [on PrEP and treatment as prevention] and follow the science, we will be able to change the course of new HIV infections, save lives, and drive down stigma.” (September 21, 2016)
- Collaboration is required: “To realize the potential to end the epidemic, it will take all of us—government and every sector of society—working together to increase access and improve our delivery of HIV testing, PrEP, and other prevention services within the healthcare system.” (January 22, 2016)
To learn more about National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, please visit AIDS.gov’s webpage on the observance.