Cause for caution and optimism at AIDS2012

By July 26, 2012AIDS 2012, HIV/AIDS

The Fenway Institute’s Director of Health Policy Research, Sean Cahill, writes about his hope for future success against HIV/AIDS and the challenges that stand in our way—homophobia, racial and economic injustice, poor sexual health education—in an op-ed for MetroWeekly titled “Caution and Optimism: AIDS 2012 Highlights Challenges, but Also Successes to Guide Us Forward.” Sean writes:

Having worked for many years to address the AIDS epidemic, especially among gay and bisexual men, I find it enormously inspiring to see thousands of medical providers, researchers, activists and ordinary people from around the world come to Washington for the XIX International AIDS Conference. Just a few short years ago it would have been impossible to hold the conference in this country, on account of the recently repealed HIV travel ban. The abolition of that counterproductive and discriminatory policy, born out of homophobia and ignorance, is a symbol of our nation’s progress in confronting the epidemic.

Cahill goes on to detail obstacles to future advances against HIV/AIDS, such as racial disparities highlighted by a  new study by the Black AIDS Institute that reveals, astonishingly, that 60 percent of black gay men in the U.S. become infected by the time they turn 40.

Laws criminalizing homosexuality stand in the way of an effective global response to HIV/AIDS. “How can safe sex even be discussed, let alone treatment be provided, when gay men are forced into silence and secrecy?”

He also discusses the harm done to LGBT youth by homophobia and sex education that excludes their sexual health needs (and in some cases, the sexual health needs of their heterosexual peers).

Homophobia is not just a domestic challenge to an effective response to HIV/AIDS. Globally, laws criminalizing homosexuality are a huge hurdle to addressing HIV in one of the highest risk groups. As Cahill ask, “How can safe sex even be discussed, let alone treatment be provided, when gay men are forced into silence and secrecy?”

Though overcoming these obstacles will be no small feat, Cahill ends on an optimistic note:

We have no shortage of success stories in fighting AIDS. We must learn from these successes as we look forward to a future without HIV—a future that seems more achievable than ever.

You can read the full text of this piece on MetroWeekly.

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