Squashing the "Super Bug"
An Open Letter to Gay and Bisexual Men
In the United States, recent media attention about a multi-drug resistant HIV (the "super-bug") couldn't come at a worse time -- when HIV prevention efforts are both increasingly censored and under funded. Unfortunately, many public health officials are currently relying on a one-size-fits-all approach to preventing further transmission of HIV. Abstinence is promoted over more comprehensive sex education approaches that address contextual as well as individual level factors. There is plenty of research showing the strong link between important contextual factors -- HIV/AIDS stigma, homophobia, class, racism, community cohesion, depression, substance use, etc -- and individual level HIV risk.
Fear campaigns launched on the backs of gay men are not new in the 24-year history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. What remains crucial is that we retain control over our bodies and health during these times. Men who have sex with men, gay identified or not, must be supported in our efforts to live satisfying and healthy sex lives, which must include consistent employment of effective safer sex and risk reduction strategies. We must work to reinforce as social norms in our community both sex with the minimal exchange of bodily fluids and condom use whenever possible.
For those of us living with HIV, it is vital that we have access to and adhere to treatment. For those of us who are HIV negative, routine STI and HIV screening must be a part of our regular health care regimen.
Sex while under the influence of any substance greatly increases the chance of HIV transmission because a person's ability to negotiate safer sex may be impaired. We must support efforts by men to minimize or eliminate their use of alcohol and/or drugs especially before and during sex. Treatment of addictions must be viewed as integral to our STD and HIV prevention efforts.
Dialogue is also critical during these times. Whether over a dinner table with friends and family or in bed with a boyfriend or trick, we must have the difficult conversations about why we should matter to ourselves, each other and the world. Here are some questions to get the discussion going:
There has never been room for complacency or resignation in our fight to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We must remain deliberate in our organizing efforts. Here are some organizing principles to be mindful about as we ready ourselves for the continued work which lies ahead:
Sadly, there is no cure for AIDS. Nor is there a magic bullet to prevent the transmission of HIV. If nothing else, the media attention about multi-drug resistant HIV reminds us about the seriousness of HIV/AIDS disease. We must move past the trivialization of HIV, because living with AIDS is neither glamorous nor easy. Now more than ever, we must re-affirm with dignity the many expressions of love and pride we extend to ourselves and to each other. We must continue to advocate for comprehensive and creative prevention approaches that are multi-pronged and sustained over time. In the current challenging political and fiscal environment, this will require our collective, unrelenting, and steady resolve.
This article was provided by Gay Men's Health Crisis. It is a part of the publication GMHC Treatment Issues. Visit GMHC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.