Arts & Entertainment
Good Afternoon Michigan!
By Todd Heywood
Originally printed 8/29/2013 (Issue 2135 - Between The Lines News)
It is so amazing to see so many family members here at the reunion! Thanks for coming! We are gay, straight, questioning, transgender, asexual, pansexual, bisexual - we are a massive and diverse family and you are beautiful!
So let me ask you all a question. How many of you beautiful men and transgender women are 20 right now or will be in the next 6 months? Raise those hands!
That's amazing. But I have some news for you. The CDC says 10 percent of you are infected with HIV right now, today.
Look around at yourselves. One in ten of you is carrying HIV.
What's worse 60 percent of you who are infected don't know it yet.
In 30 years, half of you will be infected.
HIV is our challenge, and we must grapple with it or it will take another generation of bright, beautiful queer people - and that is unacceptable.
Here in Michigan, 53 percent of the identified cases in 2012 were in the men who have sex with men risk category. That's government speak for gay and bisexual men, transgender women, and straight men who have sex with other men.
Three quarters of new infections in 13-19 year olds and 20-29 year olds are in men who have sex with men.
Here in Ingham county, the county with the highest HIV prevalence outside Detroit, nearly 20 percent of the identified HIV cases are age 13-24. 5 percent of the cases are in 13-19 year olds, and 14 percent in 20-24 year olds. And we know that because HIV testing is generally low, knowledge of status is also low. One in five gay and bisexual men is infected with HIV, and of those infected 44 percent were unaware of the infection. For young people 13-24, 60 percent who are infected do not know they have the virus. 68 percent of new infections in the US in men who have sex are happening in the context of relationships. 68 percent - stop pretending that because you are participating in serial monogamy you are safe from HIV.
HIV is our burden and we have to do something. The good news is we CAN do something.
It's really simple. If you are having sex, get tested every three months.
Those who are diagnosed with HIV can have significantly better outcomes than ever in the history of the epidemic; if they get access to medications and suppress their viral load. And that suppressed viral load makes it virtually impossible to transmit the virus.
Those who do not have HIV, have access to a variety of proven interventions aside from condoms. They can take PrEP - a once a day pill to prevent infection - or in those instances of unplanned, condomless sex they can take PEP within 72 hours and it is likely to prevent infection. Sero-positioning - being top for HIV positive partners or partners of unknown status, is also proven to be effective - more so than condoms alone.
We have the ability, today, right here, to start the end of the HIV epidemic in Michigan among us all. But it starts and ends with you. Get tested. Get the facts about risk reduction and choose a plan. And talk about HIV as a part of your life. Stop pretending that people living with HIV have some special responsibility for your health. It's your health and you need to take responsibility for it. You can do that today. The Lansing Area AIDS Network is offering free confidential and anonymous HIV testing today. Take the test. Know your status. Get the facts. Take responsibility. And we can say goodbye to HIV in Michigan.
Are you with me?
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