AIDS Continues To Rise In Gay Community

Mon. July 28, 2003 12:00 AM by

Washington, D.C. - The number of gay and bisexual men contracting HIV/AIDS has risen for the third consecutive year. The number of new cases overall rose by 2.2 percent last year, but among gay and bi men the increase was 7.1 percent. Over the past three years the increase is a staggering 17.7 percent.

"These numbers are a national tragedy and should be seen as a wake-up call that we need a swift and sweeping national commitment to a comprehensive science-based prevention plan to combat HIV/AIDS in this country," said Human Rights Campaign Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.

"The administration has consistently favored abstinence-only programs over comprehensive science-based approaches and it is clearly not working. Without a change in direction, we are likely to keep falling further and further behind."

The statistics were released Monday at the opening of the Centers for Disease Control's National AIDS conference.

The conference began amid criticism it is chopping funds to HIV prevention groups under a new strategy that will concentrate on people already infected.

Some $42 million is being diverted from prevention programs primarily aimed at gays and African Americans, two of the largest groups most susceptible to HIV/AIDS.

Some of the programs, aimed at gay men, have come under attack from the far right for being too blatant. A gropup of Republican Congressman called a San Francisco series of safe sex workshops "how-to classes on homosexual sex". The group have called for fund to be cut altogether to organizations such as Stop AIDS, a San Francisco prevention program the Congressmen call obscene.

"The conservatives, for a very long time, have worried that this kind of money for education and prevention efforts was just community development money for homosexuals and drug users," said Steven Tierney, director of HIV Prevention for the San Francisco Health Department.

Debra Fraser-Houze, president of the National Black Leadership Council on AIDS is among the community leaders attacking the CDC plan to target only people who already have HIV/AIDS. "One that only focuses on people who are already HIV positive, and takes no responsibility for prevention among people who are not yet positive is insane and, I feel, genocidal."

Funding is threatened, either in whole or in part, for 211 community-based organizations nationwide.

Before announcing the change the CDC failed to consult with AIDS organizations across the country, leading many to believe the shift in direction is politically motivated.

The CDC is also under fire from gays in the health care system over allegations of censorship after researchers at a number of schools and institutions were told to remove certain key words and phrases like "gay," "lesbian," "transgendered," and "men who have sex with men" from their grant proposals and abstracts if they expected to get funding.

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association Friday sent a letter signed by over 650 health care providers and researchers to the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protesting censorship of LGBT health research.

"Despite denials of systemic efforts to quash LGBT health research the political climate is certainly more hostile to research into our health care needs," said GLMA President, Kenneth Haller, MD.

"Aside from the fact that these concerns have been expressed by reputable, credible scientists, this month's introduction of an amendment by Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to block $1.4 million in grants for next year for four sexual research projects gives added credence to these concerns." The House narrowly defeated Toomey's amendment.

The CDC says its shift in priorities is justified. Sexually transmitted disease rates in many U.S. cities are skyrocketing and an estimated one-quarter of the more than 800,000 people living with HIV are unaware of their status.

About 40,000 more people in the United States are diagnosed with HIV every year. The CDC says it wants to reduce that by half by 2005.

by Doreen Brandt Newscenter
Washington Bureau
©® 2003

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.