August 13, 2011

August 13, 2011
How to Close the Race Gap in HIV?

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and I hope you had a safe and great week. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me. We will be at a bowlathon fundraiser for Poverello's today.

This is the yearly major fundraiser for Poverello's each year. They provide services including food bank for tens of thousands of people with HIV in south Florida. Due to funding cuts, they have had to start limiting monthly food allotments to one bag instead of two for the recipients. So we hope to see all of you in south Florida at the event. Be sure to get your picture taken with Dab the AIDS Bear in support of people living with HIV and AIDS.

So what can we do to help the continued spread of HIV in our country? This is the subject I would like to discuss in the blog today.

In our response to the AIDS epidemic, we have often been confounded when it comes to effective prevention techniques and activities, especially as the disease found its way into populations outside the mainstream.

Young gay men lack role models. At worst, they can be promiscuous, even careless; at best, they have trouble negotiating safer sex.

This has been particularly true when it comes to the homeless, IV drug users, prostitutes and poor single, black women, among others.

The newer problem is with younger men who have sex with men. While they have always been at the core of the epidemic, the caseworkers at VillageCare have been saying for well more than a year that we are facing an explosion of HIV among younger gay males.

These very young gay men are told by their families, friends, religious leaders and others that their sexuality is a mistake or an abomination. They feel isolated and rejected, and are often depressed. Men of color are doubly traumatized as sexual and ethnic minorities and live in a culture where homosexuality is universally condemned.

I am involved in reaching out to men who have sex with men and 80 percent of those we serve are under 30. Many of our guys get the message that they are not worth saving. In that context, how can we expect that they would wear a condom?

Many of these young men were shaped by negative experiences as they grew up. Among to my reserach, 30 percent report childhood sexual trauma and 50 percent report a history of sexual and/or physical abuse.

All of this results in a marginalized community of young men who have sex with men, operating on the fringes, invisible to the rest of society particularly the mass media.

These are young men searching for love in the dark without a map. They lack role models and are unable to discern appropriate sexual boundaries. At worst, they can be promiscuous, even careless; at best, they have trouble negotiating safer sex.

Reaching out to them effectively is difficult, because secrecy and silence abound.

So now what we can do, especially if you know young gay men, is to reach out and help promote HIV awareness, education and prevention. I hate to see another generation of gay men become infected by HIV and having to deal with the consequences.

Hope you have a safe and great weekend.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab