A statement in solidarity with queer youth from ACT UP / New York

actup-bannerFrom ACT UP New York

How to Declare War on the New HIV Epidemic?

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) marched through cheering crowds at the historic New York City Pride Parade on June 30th, 2013, to declare an HIV prevention emergency that threatens the health of the young queer community. More than half of young gay and bisexual men and transgender women may become HIV-positive by age 50, unless we act now, according to projections based on the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With this statement, ACT UP is issuing a non-violent declaration of war against the new HIV epidemic — AIDS 2.0 — and all of the institutions and organizations that do not mobilize to fight this second epidemic hitting our communities. We will take to the streets; we will work with government agencies to improve HIV prevention programs; we will target federal, state and city cuts to HIV prevention funding; we will research and distribute the latest safe sex and medical information in schools; we will call out ineffective sex education programs; we will target major media, entertainment and LGBT organizations that have disengaged from the AIDS fight; we will not be silent.

Read the full statement on TheBody.com.

“If I Am HIV-Negative, Then You Must Be Too, Right?”

From  writing for the Huffington Post Blog…

Falling in love is never easy, but forming a lasting relationship can be even more difficult. For many the early stages of a romance are a combination of excitement, panic and the urge to vomit, a constellation of feelings that Hallmark conveniently labels as “love.” But as relationships develop, a myriad of questions begin to arise: Will his mother like me? Does he always whistle when he pees? Will he judge me for watching Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo? Over 30 years into the HIV epidemic, the relationships formed by gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) often face another set of questions: Is he HIV-positive or negative? Is he going to ask if I am positive or negative? True, 30 years of HIV prevention efforts and advocacy have enabled many men living with HIV to be open about their HIV status, and it is certainly true that discussions around HIV are far less stigmatized than they were in the 1980s. But while we have been inundated with messages telling us to “talk about HIV with your sex partners,” for some such discussions are fraught with anxieties over blame, judgment or abandonment.

But for others, the lack of discussion around HIV with their sex partners may arise from a surprising gap in knowledge. Recently published work by Bradley Wagenaar and colleagues from the Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta shows that among a sample of 426 MSM aged 18 to 29, 21 percent were not definitively aware that sero-discordance (where one member of the couple is HIV-negative and the other is HIV-positive) is possible. That is, 1 in 5 men surveyed thought that if two men were having sex and one was HIV-negative, then the other must also be HIV-negative. This new evidence suggests that gay men may make assumptions about their partner’s sero-status using their own HIV status as a barometer against which to guesstimate their partner’s HIV status. And the logic perhaps makes sense: If I know I am negative, and we have been having a lot of sex together, then he must be negative too, right?

Continue reading on the Huffington Post Gay Voices.

Rob Stephenson is a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project. He is also an Associate Professor of Global Health at Emory University and an expert in HIV and sexual behavior among gay men.

Activist: AIDS is gay again

From , writer and activist, posted on the Huffington Post Gay Voices…

Between 2008 and 2010, new infections rose 12-percent for gay men while falling or remaining stable in all other populations. Transmission for young gay men spiked upwards 22 percent. MSM faced 30 times the HIV risk that straight guys faced. A gay African-American man was six times likelier to be infected with HIV than a white gay man, and a Hispanic man was three times likelier. Researcher Ron Stall’s 2009 prediction that more than half of young gay men would be HIV-positive by age 50 suddenly seemed a chilling underestimate.

In the early 1980s, faced with seeming extinction, gay men invented safer sex. Supported by pamphlets, videotapes and workshops, promulgated across gay sexual networks, safer sex emphasized lower-risk sex acts and using condoms for high-risk anal sex. Empowered to take control of their lives in the face of a deadly virus, gay guys drove HIV incidence down by 75 percent between 1984 and 1993. Believing that safer sex was all the prevention we’d ever need, we who were AIDS activists never fought for prevention research or the development of new prevention tools. We focused on securing treatments for the sick and potentially sick.

But we were wrong to think the original community consensus behind safer sex could survive an evolving epidemic. As early as 1993, even as AIDS deaths mounted, HIV incidence for gay men began a slow upward drift. Combination antiretroviral therapy, introduced in 1997, would make HIV a manageable disease for most who received treatment. The term “barebacking” came into use to refer to a conscious decision to discard condoms, at first an exceptional position that soon spread. Most ongoing prevention programs, unequal to the new epidemic, simply tinkered with the safer sex workshops of an earlier generation. A slow rise in HIV incidence for gay guys continued until the recent acceleration captured in the latest incidence report.

Read the full article on the Huffington Post.