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In case you didn’t know, HIV still hasn’t been cured #HIV #AIDS

In case you didn’t know, HIV still hasn’t been cured #HIV #AIDS

Depending on where you look on the internet, you get a very different picture of HIV in the news.  Yesterday, on Google News didn’t have a single thing listed under HIV, AIDS or HIV/AIDS – and I checked going back a month.  Today, there’s quite a few articles out there.

If you read the gay internet, HIV doesn’t quite exist as a front burner item.  Here’s a very unscientific look at some of the blogs who’ll continually try and tell you they’re advocates, they’re running their sites for YOU, and they’re champions of gay rights everywhere.  I came up with the following by simply using their own search function.

  • Joe My God – earlier this month copy pasting an obscure study that suggested oral sex protects you against HIV. Before that, July 2012 in a piece he factually got wrong.
  • Towleroad – just last week, a verbose article on why there probably won’t be a out at HIV positive day (I’ll get to that in a minute) Before that, November of last year
  • Good as You – January 2012, citing some loon who thinks that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Before that, 2009.
  • Queerty – just today, in fact, rerunning a piece on the guys who where positive and didn’t disclose their status to their 16 year old Grindr hookup. Despite the fact that Queerty has been a laughing stock on the internet, closed, bought and reopened on a corporate level they do have a good track record on keeping HIV on the front burner
  • Americablog – 2011. Before that, 2009. John Aravosis can’t even break out of his usual “everything is a conspiracy to get us” repartee long enough to run a World AIDS Day piece once a year.
  • Pam’s House Blend – that’d be nothing. Apparently HIV is cured in her world, or she’s devoting any LGBT health coverage to her never ending laundry list of personal health issues.
  • Bilerico – his search engine seems to be broken, but I can tell you that they actually ran a piece yesterday on the totally missing HIV coverage in the gay internet.

Yeah,  about that.

Mark S. King, a regular contributor to Bilerico  (among other places) on HIV issues, took the opportunity this past weekend at a LGBT bloggers summit sponsored by the Haas Foundation to ask people, on video, why HIV/AIDS coverage has diminished to a trickle on the internet.

The video (linked above), lasts ten minutes in length, and has alot of problems with the audio (to the point that I had to turn the external speakers on my Mac up to 10) to hear the responses.  The overall answers?

  1. Bloggers are overwhelmed with so many other issues.  Considering that the bane of most people’s “coverage” lives and dies on gay marriage, I’m not sure what other issues people are so swamped with.  The inference here is that HIV is just falling by the wayside.
  2. There was someone making a response that (more or less) it’s not sexy enough to cover.  I really can’t sit through the video again to get it down verbatim.
  3. If someone with HIV “came out” there’d be a lot more coverage.

King summarizes his piece with one paragraph:

The journalists in my video provide some answers, but I especially liked the observation by gay political activist David Mixner, who reminded me that coming out, whether as gay men or as someone living with HIV, is the greatest tool in fighting stigma and helping people see the importance of the issue.

I’ll give it to King, he’s one of the few visible people on the gay web talking about HIV.  I don’t care for his writing, and I thought that he was appropriately panned for his piece “Your mother liked it bareback”.  Does that mean he’s a bad writer? No, not at all. He’s not my taste, that’s all.  But on the the particular point of missing HIV coverage across the web I think he missed a golden opportunity to make a difference.  He’s got access, visibility, and he dropped the ball.  A lot.

So, coming out as HIV positive is the way to drive HIV coverage?  What was wrong with maintaining HIV as a continued issue in the first place?  Why does it take someone with a public profile to make HIV important again?

It shouldn’t.  It doesn’t need a National HIV coming out day, because to me, we’re just not ready for that – particularly in the gay community.  There’s an ever present attitude toward HIV that boils down to a few simple tennets.

A. Looking to hook up and you’re negative? Make sure that you’re advertising on your Grindr profile “D/D free” or “I’m clean, you be too”.

B. While not a universal attitude, the vast majority of HIV positive guys I know only have sex with others that are positive (for the unintiated A and B are called serosorting)

C. Those that have HIV and don’t want to serosort will keep it to themselves alot of time, hoping that (crossed fingers), that guy they’re really interested in won’t run for the hills when he outs his serostatus.

D. HIV is completely manageable, like diabetes.  Just take a pill, right? The days of updating your will when you got your HIV positive diagnosis are gone, and HIV is no more a problem than diabetes.  Right?

E. I don’t have any symptoms, therefore I don’t need to get tested as I don’t have it. Right?

Um, no.

CDC estimates that 1,148,200 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 207,600 (18.1%) who are unaware of their infection1. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Still, the pace of new infections continues at far too high a level—particularly among certain groups.

HIV Incidence (new infections): The estimated incidence of HIV has remained stable overall in recent years, at about 50,000 new HIV infections per year.2 Within the overall estimates, however, some groups are affected more than others. MSM continue to bear the greatest burden of HIV infection, and among races/ethnicities, African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected.

HIV Diagnoses (new diagnoses, regardless of when infection occurred): In 2011, an estimated 49,273 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States. In that same year, an estimated 32,052 people were diagnosed with AIDS. Since the epidemic began, an estimated 1,155,792 people in the United States have been diagnosed with AIDS 3

Deaths: An estimated 15,529 people with an AIDS diagnosis died in 2010, and nearly 636,000 people in the United States with an AIDS diagnosis have died since the epidemic began.3 The deaths of persons with an AIDS diagnosis can be due to any cause—that is, the death may or may not be related to AIDS.

What’s the common thread in the above points I made? A complete and total lack of education on HIV. The vast majority of people don’t look into HIV information until they need it, and by then that’s usually the day after they’ve seroconverted.  So, how can people be educated about HIV if those of us online, with websites, aren’t talking about it?  That level of education will not be solved by a National HIV coming out day, or a high profile person stepping up to the front to announce they’re HIV positive.

To be clear: I’ve never been a “use a condom or don’t fuck around” advocate. Do I think you should be bagging it up every single time? Sure. Do I think that everybody does? No; I’m not delusional.  My message now is the same as it’s ever been: if you’re NOT bagging up, then you’d best know your partner.  Playing bareback comes with responsibility on both sides of that coin, and it’s 50/50 for both partners.

The lack of HIV conversations, in person, online, and on the gay internet disturbs me and it has since I started this site. The blinders-on approach to news around the world only makes it worse and those that claim to be activists and bloggers aren’t doing the community any favours by putting the subject on the backburner.  You know, until it becomes urgent again.

With 16,000 dead just in 2010 alone, it never should have stopped being urgent to begin with.

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