A Call To Action Around Young Gay Men And HIV
8/3/2012 3:30:00 PM
By Alex Garner
What are we doing for young gay men? We spend a great deal of time talking about young gay men. They are called complacent, reckless or indifferent and men in our community are quick to respond to young gay men with judgment and condemnation. But what are we actually doing?
Are we offering support, building bridges, or listening to their stories? A coalition of national and regional advocates has put forth a "Call To Action” to lessen the burden of HIV among young gay and bisexual men. They are asking people to sign on to the initiative and to take action to better the health and wellness of young gay men.
Across race, age, and geography, gay and bisexual men remain most vulnerable to HIV infection in the United States. Gay and bisexual men are the only group of people in which new HIV infections are increasing each year. They represent only 2% of the US population, yet account for 64% of new infections. Young gay and bisexual men aged 13-29 comprise less than 1% of the US population, but account for 27% of all new infections. Black young men are especially hard hit by the AIDS epidemic, experiencing a shocking 48% increase in the number of new HIV infections between 2006 and 2009.
It can be a struggle to be young and gay. Not only do you have to deal with a potentially hostile environment at home and in school, you have to navigate a world of homophobia, poverty, sexism, and racism. We’ve all been there. Some of us had supportive families and helpful communities that offered strength, while others had to deal with issues of homelessness, poverty or abuse. It was never easy but whatever the circumstances, we made it through due to our resilience. Now we have the opportunity to share some of that with young people.
This call to action is to all people in this country- Families, churches, policy makers and community leaders. All of us need to work in concert to demonstrate to young gay men that they have value. Even the president of the United States can grasp that.
When new infections among young Black gay men increase by nearly fifty percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter. - President Barack Obama, December 1, 2011
Lives of young gay men do matter. Our community has to work harder to demonstrate that. We should be supporting and empowering young people so they can make informed and healthy decisions. Shaming them or patronizing them is counterproductive. There is considerable repair to do between the generations but those bridges are not beyond mending.
I’m of the generation of gay men who lost the opportunity to have mentors because most of them had died or were still distraught over the devastation AIDS had caused. I was an HIV-positive queer youth who often had contentious relationships with older gay men. To this day I have very few friends of the older generation and I wish that were different.
But men of my generation and the older generation have an incredible opportunity to work together to improve things for the younger generation. We’ve kept ourselves and our culture alive and we have an obligation to make sure that young gay men are active participants and contributors to our community. Of course we think we have plenty to share with them but we also have a great deal to learn from them.
Our community has more access and resources then we’ve ever had before. We have more than three generations of gay men who can work together to build relationships, strengthen our communities, and cultivate our culture. We’ve got to put aside our fear, judgment, guilt and discomfort so we can take action for young gay men. Many of us may have had to do it on our own but we did that so that the ones that came after us didn’t have to. It’s time to take action. The future of our community is calling.
Sign on here.
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