When AIDS was first identified, it was called a ‘gay plague’ by many sections of the media, allowing them to deal in a shocking brand of homophobia. Editorials screeched hatred about the lifestyles of gay men, painting them as depraved and even subhuman.
This was the mainstream media, delighting in the death of otherwise fit and healthy young men. It took years for the disease to be taken seriously and for the LGBT community to recover ground, but the stigma around it being a ‘dirty’ disease still persist in some camps. At the raTrust we see that every day.
Information, education and medication saw the AIDS epidemic stemmed, although many still die of the disease. Despite the plethora of warnings out there about HIV prevention and safe sex, there are still far too many gay men who contract HIV. According to the most recent available figures, there were 2,964 new diagnoses among gay men in 2012.
Among a community so impacted by the original outbreak, the figures are saddening and shocking. Although it is not entirely surprising, as people become oblivious to warnings when they see them so often. They start to ignore the pleas to use a condom, start believing it can never happen to them or even become reckless as to whether it will.
After all, HIV is not often the tortuous life sentence it once was. Those who are HIV-positive can look and stay healthy throughout their lives. But once new infection is one too many. People still die when undiagnosed or untreated. People still die when they are diagnosed and treated. So please get tested, always use a condom and help us to carve the death date on the tombstone that reads ‘AIDS’.
Until then, the raTrust will be out there, working face-to-face with those most at risk of contracting HIV, as well as those who are already infected. Please help us to spread the word by sharing our blog posts, liking us on Facebook and retweeting us.
Dominika Rejmer – Director and founder, The raTrust.