in Thoughts and whatever

At the day job, one of our continued areas of focus is on HIV/AIDS and its affect on the LGBT community; such has been the case since the newspaper’s founding in 1986, at the height of the 1980s AIDS Crisis.

I remember my former associate editor, who served as editor in the 1990s, once telling me that the newspaper’s coverage was once so pervasive — and obituaries so regularly published — the paper seemed less “gay rag” and more “AIDS rag.”

Our coverage certainly has diminished over the years as improvements in HIV and AIDS treatments meant the diagnosis no longer became a death sentence for those infected. But, HIV as a community concern — particularly for gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) — hasn’t gone away. In fact, HIV infections are on the upswing. It’s of particular concern in Charlotte, where young MSM, especially those of color, are increasingly carrying the burden.

Today, Sept. 27, is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Here are five facts you need to know:

1. HIV is a gay disease?

No. If you’re straight, your body is just as susceptible to the virus. There’s nothing magical about a straight person’s DNA that will keep HIV at bay.

“But,” as I noted in a recent editorial, “what is absolutely and abundantly, fundamentally and unmistakably clear is that at least in the U.S., HIV is a gay disease. HIV impacts gay men, bisexual men and men who have sex with men (MSM) more than any other demographic in this country.”

The figures vary, and the CDC sometimes contradicts even itself, but MSM make up anywhere between 2-4 percent of the U.S. population. Yet, there’s no confusion or contradictory numbers on our HIV risk: In 2010, we accounted for nearly two-thirds of all new HIV infections.

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2. Youth & black men carry the burden

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From the aforementioned editorial:

Projections and estimates released by the CDC show that as many as 10 percent of current college-aged MSM are HIV-positive. In 30 years, at current trends, as many as half of those men will be HIV-positive. For African-American college-aged MSM, the numbers rise staggeringly, mind-bogglingly higher; in 30 years, as many as 70 percent of them could be living with HIV.

Those numbers aren’t just theory. They are playing out everyday in the lives of real people. In Atlanta, as recently reported by The Washington Post, one researcher estimates that as many as 43 percent of black MSM are already HIV positive. That number is just 13 percent for white MSM.

Additionally, the CDC reports that 1 in 5 of all new HIV infections are among gay, bisexual and MSM men ages 13-24.

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3. Testing, treatment & awareness low

A new Kaiser Family Foundation report released just this week reveals:

  • Only 30 percent of gay and bisexual men have been tested for HIV in past year
  • Despite their growing risk, gay and bisexual men under 35 are twice as likely as older men to have never been tested for HIV (44% vs. 21%)
  • More than half (56%) of gay and bisexual men say a doctor has never suggested they get tested for HIV
  • More than 60 percent of gay and bisexual men say they rarely or never discuss HIV when they visit their doctor
  • Only a third (32%) realize new HIV infections are increasing among gay and bisexual men and one in four (22%) believe inaccurately that the number is decreasing; the rest think the situation is staying the same or say they don’t know
  • Gay and bisexual men say HIV/AIDS is the number one health issue facing their community, but a majority (56%) are not personally concerned about becoming infected

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4. The South is hardest hit…

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From Stateline:

Southern states now have the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses, the largest percentage of people living with the disease, and the most people dying from it, according to Rainey Campbell, executive director of the Southern AIDS Coalition, a non-profit group serving the 16 Southern states and Washington, D.C. Fifty percent of all new HIV cases are in the South.

5. …but lacks significant funding & resources

A landmark report released earlier this year by Funders for LGBTQ Issues found a greater percentage of domestic U.S. LGBT spending going toward health issues in the South, but the funding is still short-changed. Though the South is home to nearly a third of all LGBT adults, it receives only 3-4 percent of funding. That’s only 4 cents, at most, of every dollar spent on LGBT causes in the U.S.

From Funders’ report:

However, funding for LGBTQ and allied organizations based in or serving the 14 Southern states totaled a mere $4.4 million in 2011 and $4.8 million in 2012. This total is equivalent to between three percent and four percent of all LGBTQ funding and between eight and ten percent of funding dedicated to local and statewide work.

By comparison, in 2012 New York City received over $10 million for local services and advocacy – more than the entire South received in both 2011 and 2012. San Francisco received just over $4 million in 2012 – nearly the same amount as the entire U.S. South in either 2011 or 2012.

While both cities house a large, diverse LGBTQ population in need of every foundation grant they receive, with nearly a third of  “out” LGBT adults in the country living in the South, less than $5 million of funding can easily be viewed as an underinvestment.

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Cover Photo:
“Opposites Attract,” by Eva Rinaldi, via Flickr.
Licensed CC BY-SA 2.0.

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