From the Advocate…
By Mondo Guerra
I have been living with HIV for 10 years, and what I have learned is this: having this virus is not easy. Living with a lifelong condition presents incredible challenges that not everyone sees. No one hears the difficult conversations you have to have with your partner, your family, or your doctor throughout the multiple appointments you must maintain for the rest of your life. I believe these moments that people don’t see make many misinterpret the reality of living with HIV.
When I look around me, I think the reason there has been such an increase of HIV infections among young gay men is that HIV is no longer viewed as a death sentence. While I am overjoyed at how far we have come since the early 1980s when the disease emerged, I fear the younger generation may no longer view HIV as something serious.
The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a major increase in the number of new infections among gay and bisexual men who are between the ages of 13 and 24 — a 132.5 percent increase between 2001 and 2011.
It is important to remember that one irresponsible or uninformed move can result in a lifelong condition. Not only do those with HIV have to live with the responsibility for their own health, as does everyone else, they must ensure they are asking the right questions, being safe, and staying responsible with their partner or partners. New treatment options make it possible to live an active life with the disease. But these treatment options can provide the younger generation with a false sense of security, as perhaps they are no longer fearful of what may happen if they act irresponsibly.
A lot of this confusion can be caused by the media. The conversations in the news surrounding HIV must be revamped to focus on the extensive steps needed to protect oneself as well as the difficulties of living with HIV. In addition, the younger generation should speak with those who have been living with HIV into their older years to get a firsthand account of how the disease affects people over the course of a lifetime.
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