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Testing imperative in the fight against HIV/AIDS

By |2008-06-19T09:00:00-04:00June 19th, 2008|Uncategorized|

On weeks such as the one that just passed, we are reminded, overwhelmingly, of the threat that HIV/AIDS still presents, not only to our community, but to the world.
Last week, AIDS Partnership Michigan held their 25th anniversary gala, the HIV Prevention Leadership Summit was held and the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition held an explosive town hall meeting. All of this happened in Detroit, an area with extremely high prevalence of cases of HIV, especially among the black and gay communities.
Though AIDS has become much more than just the “gay disease” it was pegged as in the early ’80s, it still affects both the black and gay communities at a disproportionally high rate. AIDS is one of the top five causes of death for black men. African-Americans comprise 55 percent of reported HIV infections. In 2005, 53 percent of diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS were gay men. When those two traits are combined, the results are that almost half of the black, gay males in America are infected with HIV.
It’s a chilling statistic, and one that was discussed in depth at the NBGMAC’s town hall on Thursday night. Why is the number so high? With so many organizations devoting their work, either specifically or as part of a larger project, to black, gay men’s health, why haven’t the numbers gone done?
In fact, they have gone up.
As with newly-researched disorders like autism, the plight of the black, gay male is only beginning to be accurately represented by statistics. It is often estimated that numbers of infected men are actually much higher than statistics say, due to the fact that many men are either ignorant of the fact that they have HIV or unwilling to get tested.
As more men are getting tested, it is driving the statistic up – but it doesn’t necessarily mean bad news. It means that more black men are willing to identify as gay, or at least keep themselves safe, and that the statistics we’re seeing now are more accurate than ever.
It’s a number that needs to exist because estimates of the number of infections are not enough to fight for a cause. A real statistic as horrifying as 46 percent of a community will open more eyes – and more wallets – than speculation alone.
But getting tested, the men of NBCMAC say (and we at BTL agree), does more than just make for accurate statistics. It helps to ensure that people are aware of their status so if they are infected, they can get the help they need and actively prevent the spreading of HIV to others. In a sense, the number of reported cases going up is necessary to ensure that the future numbers of reported cases go down.
It’s an idealistic result, but urging people to get tested is the only way to get there. As long as people are unaware of their status, they are putting themselves and others in danger – and that goes for men and women, black and white, gay and straight.
It’s 2008. HIV has been around for over 25 years, and yet the fight is still far from being won. Sure, more federal funding is needed. Sure, more education in schools would help. And yes, creating safe spaces for people to come out and be out is and will help to encourage safe behavior. But there’s one definite thing that will never help to eradicate HIV/AIDS: ignoring it.
Donate. Educate. Protect yourself. And get tested. June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. There’s no excuse not to participate.

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.
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