Column: The LGBT community and HIV

Social stigmas and discrimination are to blame for the lack of HIV awareness, not apathy among the LGBT community.

HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, is a deadly disease that kills millions of people every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), HIV affects specific cells in the immune system through the spread of bodily fluids. The virus can affect so many of these cells that the body is unable to fight off infections and disease, resulting in the diagnoses of AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Once a person acquires HIV, they have it for the rest of their life, and currently, no cure exists.

Among many other communities, the LGBT community is severely affected by HIV. Gay and bisexual men seem to acquire the most diagnoses in this group. The Human Rights Campaign reported that among 50,000 people newly diagnosed with HIV each year, approximately two-thirds of them are gay and bisexual men. According to the CDC, at the end of 2010, 56 percent of those with HIV in the U.S. were gay and bisexual men. They also reported that in 2010, gay and bisexual men accounted for 63 percent among all new infections and 78 percent among all newly infected men. The HRC also mentioned that transgender women have a large chance of developing HIV. They are nearly 34 times more likely to be infected than other women.

It is apparent that HIV is a rampant and dangerous disease that needs to be addressed immediately. However, this matter does not seem to get much press time or attention. Earlier this week, Zachary Quinto, an actor known for his role as Dr. Spock in the recent Star Trek films, made some scathing remarks concerning HIV and the LGBT community, according to The Independent. He criticized the community for its laziness and complacency toward HIV awareness.

After a mild uproar among LGBT individuals, he clarified his position in an article in the Huffington Post. He affirmed that he never meant to be judgmental or make generalizations; he was just trying to encourage more conversation and awareness within the community.

Despite his honorable intentions, Zachary Quinto is putting the blame on the wrong people. The LGBT community has done a tremendous amount to raise awareness about HIV. However, they are hindered by a society that shuns and discriminates against individuals with HIV. According to the HRC, more than 30 states have laws that have been used to prosecute people with HIV, and there are still general criminal laws in existence that target HIV-infected people.

The HRC also pointed out that advancement in HIV research has been encumbered by the ideology behind certain policy decisions. For example, instead of allotting money for the prevention of HIV through syringe exchange programs, the government gave more than $1 billion to fund abstinence-only sex education. The LGBT community is not only fighting against the government, they are in a battle with the rest of society. Many individuals with HIV have been stigmatized, stereotyped and discriminated against. They are more hesitant to seek out helpful resources because of the possible backlash they may receive from society.

HIV is a terrible disease that surely needs more publicity to raise sufficient funds to hopefully find a cure for those that are affected by it. Despite the disproportionate amount of people in the LGBT community that are affected by this disease, they are not to blame for the lack of awareness for the disease. The government, and society as a whole, needs to assist the LGBT community in combating this disease. If we all band together, maybe we can one day live in an HIV-free world.

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