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While You're Waiting: Could Marriage Equality Stop AIDS?

June 24, 2011

As LGBT tolerance goes up, new HIV infections go down.

As LGBT tolerance goes up, new HIV infections go down.

While you're biting your fingernails, waiting to find out if New York will legalize same-sex marriage, here's something to consider.

Marriage equality could play a significant role in reducing the spread of HIV among LGBT people in New York.

How?

Two years ago, a pair of Emory University economists set out to determine if more tolerant attitudes toward LGBT people were linked to lower HIV rates. They measured "tolerance" as the number of Americans who reported "that homosexual behavior is not wrong at all or wrong only sometimes."

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The duo discovered that as acceptance of LGBT people increased, HIV prevalence decreased. More specifically, the authors found evidence that societal acceptance of homosexuality encouraged gay men to move away from anonymous, underground behaviors -- like visits to sex clubs or fleeting sexual encounters -- that put them at risk for HIV.

"Some of us grew up with our parents and society telling us that homosexuality is a sin," said Johnny Guaylupo, 29, who was diagnosed with HIV at 17. "Because of that we could only be ourselves in places where we were engaging in risky behaviors. The more society ‘normalizes’ homosexuality -- for example, accepting gay marriage -- the more we can move sexual relationships into the open, and the safer we will be with ourselves."

Marriage equality can't come fast enough.

In New York City, gay men account for about 44 percent of new HIV infections. And as complacency around AIDS has grown, many young people have stopped practicing safer sex. In the last decade, new HIV diagnoses in the city have increased significantly among those under 30–from 489 in 2001 to 747 last year.

"We think of New York City as progressive, but even here, antiquated prejudice acts as a barrier to discussing safe sex and talking about HIV," said Charles King, president and CEO at Housing Works. "By legalizing marriage, New York is allowing everyone to live and love openly and contributing to the fight against HIV."

Follow the Update blog on twitter @housingworks.



  
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This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
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More on Issues Affecting the LGBT Community

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