The medical journal The Lancet published a July 2012 special series exploring the unique aspects of the HIV epidemic in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), showing that it is factors such as the biology of anal sex, the characteristics of MSM networks, and known behavioral factors that are driving the epidemic in this population. The Fenway Institute’s Dr. Kenneth H. Mayer contributed an article to this special series titled Comprehensive care in health services for MSM: caring for the whole man.
The series was highlighted at a Tuesday, July 24 symposium at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC. Dr. Mayer and the other journal authors presented on their articles and findings before an international crowd of academics, public health officials, LGBT-rights activists and others. 80 countries still criminalize homosexual behavior, and the panelists talked about issues facing MSM and other LGBT people in those countries, as well as the disproportionately high number of Black MSM infected in the United States and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in gay and bisexual men globally. Homophobia, stigma and discrimination against LGBT people were common themes throughout the presentations, and the need for structural interventions to overturn unfair laws and end persecution of LGBT people was discussed.
Despite the enormity of the problems outlined during the panel, there was still optimism and hope for the future. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, writing in The Lancet special issue, “In the future, the laws that criminalise so many forms of human love and commitment will look the way apartheid laws do to us now—so obviously wrong…Never let anyone make you feel inferior for being who you are.”