World AIDS Day 2017
Nearly seven years after the AIDS crisis first struck America (but only two years after then-President Ronald Reagan had the courage to finally acknowledge the epidemic); I was born in a small town along the Texas-Mexico border, completely oblivious to the disease that would eventually define my early anxieties surrounding queerness. By then, which was mid-1988, roughly five thousand people had already succumbed to what many, at the time, referred to as the “gay cancer.”
But it wasn’t the “gay cancer.” Though it primarily affected men who have sex with men; other demographics fell victim to HIV, and inevitably AIDS, including intravenous drug users. But it was the societal emphasis on HIV’s connection to homosexuality that initially scared me as a questioning young boy. I convinced myself that I was destined for a particular fate because of my gay identity. I mean, I wasn’t the only person who saw what happened to Tom Hanks in the movie ‘Philadelphia,’ was I? If I was gay, that meant I’d one day die of AIDS, right? Of course, that was wrong! But what did I know as a sexually-confused teen?
That misconception aside; I think I was worried most about my health because I never received the proper information with regards to HIV transmission—not too hard to believe considering I hail from a predominately Mexican-American and Catholic community. It wasn’t until after I fully accepted my sexual orientation that I began to educate myself and take the necessary precautions to stay HIV-negative; especially since Latino gay and bisexual men, like myself, are most susceptible when it comes to contracting the virus. Yes, HIV/AIDS is not as worrisome as it was 30 years ago thanks to life-saving anti-retroviral medications. But there’s no denying that it still requires our immediate attention. Which is why recognizing World AIDS Day is very crucial.
While the number of HIV diagnoses is decreasing among most at-risk groups; that doesn’t change the fact that 40,000 people found out they were HIV-positive last year alone. And of the 1.1 million Americans living with HIV (the worldwide figure is 36.7 million); 1 in 7 don’t even know they’re infected.
So naturally, the CDC advises all sexually-active people; notably queer men and those between the ages of 13-24, to get tested regularly and to know their status! And for those living with HIV, it’s important to maintain treatment to ensure a strong, productive future. It also behooves those of us who are HIV-negative to help combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
While there is no definitive cure yet, there’s most certainly a will and a way to fight back… and it’s our mission to do just that.
Click HERE for more information.