Today (Sept. 27) is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. For me, every day is an “awareness day” about HIV/AIDS. I feel it is important for me to talk about it, because I am increasingly concerned that many in the LGBT community don’t. I am worried about the kids out there and the generation that hasn’t seen the devastating impact of this epidemic the way my generation has.
Just a few days ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published new heartbreaking data showing that one in five gay and bisexual men in 21 major US cities are living with HIV. I am one of those men. I have been living with HIV since 2001.
I have the privilege of serving as the deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and President Obama’s liaison to the LGBT community. I want to share a personal perspective on the importance of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States, issued by the Obama administration in July. While I work closely with the Office of National AIDS Policy, I was not directly involved in writing the plan. But I clearly have a personal stake in the mission.
The strategy provides a vision for America that puts saving the lives of gay and bisexual men front and center in our national plan for ending HIV/AIDS, through preventing new HIV infections, increasing access to care, and reducing HIV-related health disparities. Not only is the strategy the first comprehensive plan for responding to the domestic AIDS crisis, it is perhaps the first time that our national policy dialogue could be so forthright about the disproportionate impact of HIV among gay and bisexual men.
Gay and bisexual men make up roughly 2 percent of the US population, but we account for 53 percent of new HIV infections. We are the only group where HIV infection rates are rising. We all have a responsibility to reverse this trend.
I encourage all of you to read the Strategy and Federal Implementation Plan. It calls for new efforts to reduce infections and calls for us to take new steps to end stigma and discrimination. In the president’s budget proposal for next year, which begins on October 1, he proposes a new initiative at CDC to take a more holistic approach to preventing HIV in the LGBT community by promoting sexual health and preventing sexually transmitted infections.
There is a lot to be done, but I have seen firsthand that this administration is committed to working in partnership with the LGBT community and others. I feel like we all have a responsibility to do this for the kids out there and also in the memory of those who have fought this fight before us.