As we enter the final stretch of this election season, it’s time to focus on what is coming next, and more importantly, on our goals for the future. It’s exciting – and challenging – for those of us in the HIV/AIDS community to envision a day when we are not merely scrambling to survive the latest round of budget cuts and homophobic attacks on our work, but that time may soon be here.As the President and CEO of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and Executive Director of AIDS Action Council in Washington, DC, I have the opportunity to see the effects of the epidemic both on a particular region – New England — and on the nation as a whole. Lifelube has asked me to dream big – about what is needed to allow gay men, now and in the future, the opportunity to fulfill their inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
First, we must demand that aNational AIDS Strategybe established to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our country. The next U.S. President must recognize that AIDS remains a national crisis, and as such, requires a results-oriented AIDS strategy. Since gay men continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, they must be an integral part of this strategy. And any AIDS strategy worthy of the name must address the exceptionally high rates of HIV among Black gay men. We should be outraged at the nation’s failure to address the HIV crisis affecting this community, and the injustice of a generation of young gay Black men facing HIV. Read more about a National AIDS Strategy.
Next, we need to follow the lead of The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) to create a national standard for equal access to healthcare and treatment for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender patients and their families. Our nation’s healthcare must include all of our citizens and respond to all of our needs. Read more about healthcare equality.
Third, we must stop funding unscientific, stigmatizing and homophobic abstinence-only education. Federally funded “abstinence-only-until-marriage” education is both ineffective and harmful, particularly to our most vulnerable youth. It ignores the needs - and indeed the very presence - of young gay men, adding to their isolation. Such ideology-based education is both misguided and irresponsible. Effective sexuality education programs must address the needs of young gay, bi, and trans men who need to know how to protect themselves and stay safe in order to reach their full potential. Read more about abstinence-only programs and homophobia.
To develop effective programming, we need to collect better data on gay, bisexual, and trans men so that we can fully identify and address their needs. In Massachusetts, we have seen the power of data collection through our decade-plus experience with the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. This survey has revealed important information about Massachusetts teens’ sexual identity and same-sex sexual activity. Such data has been essential both for designing programs that address queer youth needs and for making appropriate funding requests. And then, once we have the data, we must develop or adapt culturally appropriate prevention interventions around HIV, STDs, and substance use. The dollars must follow the data. Read more about reachingallpopulations. Finally, we must continue to see, feel, and live the gay community in all its diversity. Gay men, bisexual men, trans men, GBT men of color – ALL men – need our commitment and support. The LGBT community must lead by embracing everyone and making all feel welcome. Segmentation and division are not an option, since these marginalize and isolate groups of gay men and increase vulnerability. We must do more to include everyone in our community and work together to address inequity in healthcare, access to prevention, and community support. Read more about embracing a diverse community. As I look into the future, I see many bright opportunities for gay, bisexual and transgender men. I look forward to our work together. Rebecca Haag, President & CEO AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and Executive Director, AIDS Action Council