This is such an extraordinarily important issue. HIV and AIDS have been prominent in the GLBT community for a long time. It wasn’t until the eighties that the disease received worldwide attention as an epidemic. And then, gay men were targeted, and the disease was known as GRID – Gay Related Immune Deficiency – and became another reason to ostracize homosexuals.
HIV continues to weak havoc among the gay population, except now it has shown in younger and younger samples of gay men. The CDC did a comparison and estimate study in 2012 of HIV between the years of 2007 and 2010. The statistics are startling.
- In major U.S. cities, 1 in 5 young gay/bisexual men are infected with HIV a year
- Gay males represent 4% of the U.S. population
- Gay men accounted for more than 3/4 (78%) of new infections among men
- Gay men accounted for 2/3 (63%) of new infections overall
- Young gay black men (between the ages of 13 and 24) rank the highest among all subgroups, and accounted for 55% of new infections among young gay men
- There has been a 12% increase in HIV incidence in gay men from 2007 – 2010
These statistics are horrifying, and while so much is known about the physical and mental affects associated with HIV, the number of new infections hasn’t declined. So why aren’t the numbers going down? With all we know about HIV, AIDS and how devastating these diseases are, why aren’t gay men taking more precautions to protect themselves?
I understand cultural issues. At times it’s hard enough for me as a lesbian to navigate through life. I couldn’t begin to imagine the strife a young black man faces when he realizes he’s gay or bisexual, especially if he’s growing up in a poorer community where the men are expected to take care of the family. Tolerance and acceptance is growing in the US in general, but some communities place great amounts of pressure on their children to grow up into strong, heterosexual adults to further the family name.
And I understand the desire to achieve full pleasure during a sexual encounter. But at what cost?
Interestingly enough, I haven’t found any statistics regarding lesbians and STDs. This is unfortunate, as it can lull lesbians into a false sense of security, and the mentality of ‘It won’t happen to me’.
So how do we combat such things?
Well, first and foremost – get educated. When I was diagnosed with leukemia, I learned as much as I possibly could on the subject. Because if I were going to succumb to something I couldn’t see, I was damn well going to put up one hell of a fight. You can’t necessarily prevent cancer, but you can prevent STDs and HIV. And knowing what the diseases can do to you may scare you enough to take the precautionary steps to prevent you from contracting them in the first place. Ask the status of your sexual partner (or partners, as the case may be). If you’re intimate enough to have sex, you’re definitely intimate enough to share statuses. And if you don’t know your own status, find out. Get tested.
Stay protected. If you’re a gay man, or bisexual, use condoms. If you’re a lesbian, wash your toys, wash your fingers before and after sex. Make sure to wash under your fingernails as well. Use protection for oral sex as well. Talk with your doctor about protection that can also maximize the experience. If you think you might have contracted something, see your doctor immediately.
Sex is not worth the risk of death. Ever.
I’ll even help get you started. Use this link to find a testing center near you – http://hivtest.cdc.gov/
Some centers will even test for free.
Remember – Get Educated, Stay Protected.