Although the common perception of the AIDS epidemic is that the worst is behind us, the disease can still be a death sentence to those geographically disadvantaged, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and minority populations. Last year marks the 30th Anniversary of World’s AIDS Day and yet, it’s still as prevalent as ever. From a policy perspective, we must work together on both sides of the aisle to find an equitable and just solution to this problem.
Domestically, we have a problem with AIDS. AIDS disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men, Latinos, and African Americans compared to straight white men and straight white women. The stigma on AIDS has always been placed on gay men. As the stigma towards gay and bisexual men has changed, little has been done in the way of affordable treatment or disease prevention to help in fighting AIDS. As for Latinos and African Americans, who are more at risk than straight people, their issues stem from the historical practice of redlining neighborhoods. Redlining is the practice of segregating people into certain neighborhoods on the basis of race. Redlining limits their access to affordable health care options, or even good jobs to get expensive treatments for helping prevent HIV/AIDS.
What can be done? First, there should be a federal mandate to make PrEP more affordable for those at risk. PrEP is a medicine that helps prevent the contraction of HIV/AIDS. It has been proven fairly effective and is a great first step. however it is very expensive. if we, as a country, helped cover the cost of it, HIV treatment costs would go down on aggregate and the rate of contraction would go down. Second, for those who have contracted HIV/AIDS, subsidizing health care costs is a good start. By helping make it affordable, more people can get the treatment they need to get better. Lastly, fund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is a great resource to get HIV testing. it can be tough to ask your normal doctor to get an HIV test, and Planned Parenthood makes it affordable in a stigma-free environment. Planned Parenthood is also very important in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and provides a space for those who are going through tough times to use as a resource to help them stay healthy.
As a gay man, I’m scared if I ever get that diagnosis, and I want to be sure that there is a security blanket present to help me if that day comes. Our government does next to nothing at the moment to help us out, and that needs to change. We, as a gay and bisexual community, along with those who are members of other minority populations, must come together to tell Congress that we matter just as much as everyone else and deserve a fair shake as well. Until we get a better deal on this, HIV/AIDS diagnosis is still a problem and still a death sentence, just prolonged.
There are several fantastic charities that do great work to help end/prevent HIV/AIDS in America, please consider donating to AIDS United for helping end HIV/AIDS in America (https://www.aidsunited.org/About/Donate.aspx) or Planned Parenthood to help keep them funded for helping those at risk of HIV/AIDS (https://www.plannedparenthood.org/get-involved/other-ways-give)
By Curtis Engstrom