THIS MONTH, we celebrate everyone and everything that made us strong and PROUD. We have had many hardships along the way, but we have so much to be thankful for today. We are winning the fight for equality, and we will continue winning because equal rights are human rights. However, as we look back on everything that’s great about the LGBT movement, it’s important to remember all we’ve been through and the work that still needs to be done. It seems to me, we have lost focus on all that encompasses an LGBT identity. We fixate on the issues of marriage equality and which new celebrity has come out because they have wide appeal. People love to see the face of a happy new bride or that sexy Wentworth Miller. Those are amazing things that we should celebrate and recognize because they help to bring visibility, compassion and understanding to our community. They validate the movement and allow the public to relate to LGBT people. However, in this shift to heartwarming causes and beautiful successes, we have overlooked many things that we never finished. Most important of those lost causes is HIV/AIDS awareness, education and activism.
Since the beginning of the LGBT movement, nothing has hurt our community and stolen more from us than HIV/AIDS. The first cases of AIDS in the United States were found in five gay men in San Francisco and New York City in the early 1980s, and the epidemic has disproportionately affected the community ever since. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
Gay and bisexual men remain among the most affected by HIV. While these men represent approximately two percent of the overall U.S. population, they accounted for sixty-one percent of all new HIV infections in 2009.
It is estimated that 300,000 gay men in the United States have suffered an AIDS-related death since 1981. That’s nearly half of Columbus’ current population. An entire generation of gay and bisexual men has been lost to HIV/AIDS and we cannot allow another to meet the same fate. We must redirect our attention to the issue that continues to ravage our community.
Until there is a cure, we must continue to fight!
I’m calling on all community members to act up again. We need a second wave of AIDS activism in this country and throughout the world. It may cause tension with our allies and enemies alike but, it’s that tension that causes movement, change and evolution. This movement is different than others because it starts with you. As someone once said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Regardless of its origin, that quote is extremely fitting. HIV stops with each of us. Negative, positive or unsure, it is our actions that contribute to the problem. Strive to be safer and smarter, and encourage all those around you to do the same. As we celebrate LGBT History Month, let’s work to make HIV/AIDS part of that history.