This HIV Statistic Brought Up At The DNC Might Shock You, But It’s Nothing New
One of the biggest problems involving HIV and AIDS is that people don’t talk about it. On Wednesday, a black, HIV-positive advocate at the Democratic National Convention dropped some truth bombs about the virus and who it affects. Although the speech aired on CSPAN, all of the other major news orgs cut away to their panels and talking heads, while Daniel Driffin, a 30-year-old activist, tried to spread the word that HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects black and Latino men, in addition to speaking to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s track record on HIV/AIDS advocacy. Driffin shared a shocking HIV/AIDS statistic about black gay men, but it really shouldn’t be surprising since it’s not new at all.
One in two gay black men are diagnosed with HIV. That’s insane. That is half of the fucking population. The thing is, it’s totally preventable, but no one knows that, or at least not enough people to enact any real change. That’s a problem, because the stigma of HIV and the lack of education about what it means to positive now, in 2016, is part of why the virus keeps spreading.
Driffin said, “We know how to prevent the virus now, we know how to diagnose the virus now, we know how to treat it, and we know how to suppress it — we’ve learned all that within my lifetime.” He added, “But still, there are many living with HIV… And who are most at risk? Young, gay, black men. Men like me.”
Thanks to research and advocacy like Clinton’s (who made a big mistake one time and lauded Nancy Reagan for her work to curb the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s, when actually the Reagan administration did abso-fucking-lutey nothing to help those affected), being positive now is not a death sentence.
The antiretrovirals given to HIV patients are pretty fucking awesome and keep viral loads low enough that the virus doesn’t become AIDS. Antiretrovirals and PrEp make the chance of transmitting the virus to partners very, very low. In fact, it’s more dangerous to have sex with someone who doesn’t get tested for HIV and know their status than it is to have sex with a positive person who is on medication and “undetectable,” according to a recent study that found no HIV transmissions among sero-discordant couples (where one partner is HIV negative and one is HIV positive) having unprotected sex.
HIV and AIDS, in America at least, is no longer the crisis it once was. It’s still a major problem, but it’s one that is somewhat solvable. Knowledge is fucking life, basically. But many people don’t get tested because they still think that HIV/AIDS is a “gay man’s problem.” It’s not — it’s an everyone problem, but black and Latino gay men are especially vulnerable and need the most help right now. Half of gay black men will get HIV in their lifetime if we don’t work harder to educate, test, and treat people. For Latino males, it’s one in four.
Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention, said in a statement this year, “As alarming as these lifetime risk estimates are, they are not a foregone conclusion. They are a call to action.” He continued: “The prevention and care strategies we have at our disposal today provide a promising outlook for future reductions of HIV infections and disparities in the U.S., but hundreds of thousands of people will be diagnosed in their lifetime if we don’t scale up efforts now.”
In the ’80s, politicians and the media and the drug companies (those fuckers especially) ignored the HIV/AIDS crisis because it was perceived as a thing gay men got, and their lives apparently didn’t matter as much as anyone else’s. Now, gay black and Latino men are at the epicenter of the problem, and America is still ignoring them. Because poor black and brown gay people are not worth investing in or something. But that’s fucking bullshit. Investing in education and outreach programs, ensuring that everyone gets tested and then treated can actually stop HIV in its tracks.
In South Africa, they’re giving healthy teens — gay or straight — PrEp, and it’s working to help keep HIV rates down. America needs to make sure that everyone, no matter their race, economic status or sexual orientation, can go to the fucking doctor and doctors are talking about HIV and urging patients to get tested.
HIV is a big fucking deal and America needs to talk about it. It’s a manageable problem and one we actually know how to solve, unlike some other illnesses (here’s looking at you, cancer) that get so much more media attention than HIV/AIDS. So, let’s talk about it — it’s the first step to helping those who need it the most.