HIV, or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a life-threatening virus that damages and kills cells of the immune system. Over the years, HIV has become an epidemic in the US and the whole world. LGBT community is a group particularly affected by the illness, while also being blamed for the spread of it. New services and public health programming need to be put in place, accounting for discrimination LGBT people face, to challenge homophobia and stop the HIV epidemic.
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According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.2 million people live with HIV in the United States, and that number continues to grow, creating more opportunities for people to get infected (“High-impact HIV prevention,” 2017). Insufficient funding and stigma discourage many from getting tested or treated for HIV: the social and cultural barriers are especially high for the members of the LGBT community, facing discrimination not only from the public but also medical personnel.
However, the LGBT community is the one that needs to seek help the most, accounting for 70% of new HIV infections in the United States (“HIV among gay and bisexual men,” 2017). Homophobia continues to be a significant barrier to ending the HIV epidemic, preventing LGBT people from accessing vital HIV testing and treatments.
To end the HIV epidemic, the US needs to implement non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity at the federal level. The US saw tremendous progress under former President Barack Obama, whose National HIV & AIDS Strategy Federal Action Plan focused on ending discrimination against the LGBT community (“National HIV/AIDS strategy for the United States Federal plan,” 2015). Additionally, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) fights to stop the culture of guilt and shame, imposed on the LGBT community, by guaranteeing them coverage.
CDC has multiple federally sponsored programs such as ACT Against AIDS, Doing It, and Start Talking. Stop HIV, available to the LGBT community with the goal to connect them with the most helpful resources. Only in 2017, CDC awarded 30 community-based organizations with nearly $11 million per year for five years to provide HIV testing to young gay and bisexual men (“HIV among youth,” 2017). High schools, universities, libraries, and other public places could be the place with brochures and bulletin boards on the importance of HIV testing and information about the available programs. With the guaranteed support from the federal government, local community organizations can make a high impact on the lives of the LGBT members.
It is especially important to ensure the professionalism of the hospital staff. Butler et al. argue that “for many physicians, like many people in society, examining strongly held beliefs and biases may be a necessary first step to creating a welcoming environment for LGBT patients” (2016).
To further fight social barriers, there need to be an inclusivity and non-discrimination training: the hospital staff has to know how to collect sexual and social history, use gender-neutral language, and refrain from making assumptions about a persons sexual orientation. Similar training should be implemented in various organizations to help with fighting the stigma around the LGBT community and make them feel understood and supported.
The LGBT community and its allies must take an active stance to fight the HIV epidemic and discrimination. Congress and the White House need to be pressured to continue support of the National HIV & AIDS Strategy and other federal funded public health programs, as well as changing negative public opinion on LGBT community. Americans need to advocate for ending the stigma around HIV, providing a supportive environment for persons living with and affected by HIV in all aspects of life and at every level of society.
Butler, M., McCreedy, E., Schwer, N., Burgess, D., Call, K., Przedworski, J.,… Kane, R. L. (2016). Improving cultural competence to reduce health disparities. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Web.
CDC. (2017). High-impact HIV prevention. Web.
CDC. (2017). HIV among gay and bisexual men. Web.
CDC. (2018). HIV among youth. Web.
White House Office of National AIDS Policy (2015). National HIV/AIDS strategy for the United States: Federal action plan. Web.