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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I JUST CAN'T: Its Time to Change the Narrative on HIV and AIDS

I can't anymore. I just can't. I can't sit through another speech or ceremony where a sad gay man speaks about his boyfriend who died of AIDS in 1986. Or a slideshow homage to the victims of AIDS who are wearing Members Only jackets and big 80s hair. It's time to put that to rest, I'm sure the fabulous dead would be like "girl, move on, day-glo was so three decades ago."  Yet this sad broken record replays itself over and over.  The stereotype of a sickly HIV positive gay man who is sexless is still the image that comforts people who know little about the disease, or their own HIV status. 

Yet the "AIDS industry" struggles to keep this death based narrative alive, because that is the orthodoxy of the HIV Epidemic. AHF, AIDS Healthcare Foundation uses its multi-million dollar bullhorn to warn gay men against PrEP despite clear scientific evidence that it's overwhelmingly successful in preventing new infections. It uses tactics such as sex shaming gay men who take Truvada to prevent HIV. It throws out red herrings like "drug resistant STDs" which do exist, however, even most diseases treated with antibiotics eventually succumb to drug resistance...new drugs are developed to fight resistance.

So, finally, in 2015 we can actually change the narrative around HIV disease.  We can move away from the depressing, fear-based tropes that have permeated our culture, especially our gay culture for the last three decades.  In the last two years, especially in the last year new medical breakthroughs have emerged that show that HIV is beatable. That we can finally turn the corner on the epidemic. In all seriousness, HIV is no longer a major topic of conversation in the gay set and there is a hunger to move on.  But we can't move on quite yet.

We can't move on until we agree that the new studies of PrEP: Pre Exposure Prophylaxis are amazing breakthroughs and offer gay men a hope of a life free from the fear of HIV. As gay men we should encourage men who are not infected to start taking Truvada faithfully.  Second we need to get all those gay men who don't know their status to get tested. New studies show that with sero-dis-concordant couples (couples with different HIV status) if the infected partner has an undetectable viral load, the odds of transmission are almost nil.  These two breakthroughs can finally put a halt to this disease among gay men. Governor Cuomo of New York has a stated goal to get all sexually active gay men on PrEP while getting positive guys to undetectable viral loads, the combination should be enough to break the back this epidemic.  We need to make this final push, to make HIV infection rare in this country.

We need to sell a positive future for young gay men, that life without HIV should be the norm. Oh, and tell all of us survivors from the worst of the epidemic, that despite all the horror that HIV brought on us in the 80's and early 90's. We won't forget the 500,000 men who died, but I think its time we let them rest in peace and not use their memories to promote outdated ideas about fear and death always intertwined with sex.