GSA Network Blog

World AIDS Day: Commemorate Loss, Celebrate Advances

Today, on World AIDS Day, as we commemorate nearly four decades of loss and celebrate the advances we've made in prevention efforts, we must remember that HIV and AIDS continue to disproportionately affect young gay and bisexual men, particularly young men of color. 

I remember the first time that I heard about the “mysterious cancer” killing gay men in NYC, LA, and San Francisco. I was coming of age during a time when having sex the way that I wanted to have sex meant a high possibility of catching a virus that would kill me. Fortunately, we have made important advances since then.

Recently, there has been some exciting and promising news: there has been a 59% decrease in new HIV infections in San Francisco over the past four years and an 18% decrease across the nation in that same amount of time. Why? San Francisco has taken the lead in promoting Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), which is the practice of taking HIV prevention medication as prevention, as well as testing and treatment for HIV-positive individuals. 

Evidence shows that PrEP is over 90% effective at preventing HIV infections when taken daily and around 70% effective when taken intermittently. At the same time, it has also been proven that HIV+ individuals on treatment with an undetectable viral load, meaning there is no virus present in the blood and other bodily fluids, cannot transmit the virus.  In combination, these practices lead to a major decrease in new HIV infections.

However, young people, gay and bisexual men of color, and individuals who live in suburban and rural areas report difficulty in obtaining prescriptions for PrEP as well as finding pharmacies that carry and/or are willing to fill a prescription. (Note: The current medication used for PrEP is a combination drug called Truvada, a pill that must be taken on a daily basis. Other methods are being tested, including injectable medications that lasts for three or more months, and will be available soon.)

So what can we do as youth leaders and adult allies to improve access to PrEP, along with testing and treatment?

  • Educate youth, medical providers, pharmacists, nurses, parents, teachers, and others about the benefits of PrEP and that it IS recommended for gay and bisexual men under eighteen.
  • Work with school-based clinics, community-based clinics, and mobile health services to ensure that they are LGBTQ-friendly and are able to write and fill prescriptions for PrEP.
  • Promote PrEP as a prevention method for HIV along with condoms to prevent other STDs and other methods of contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy.

While many people live long lives with HIV/AIDS, it is still important to get tested regularly and get treated as soon as possible. Get more information about PrEP for people under 18.

Facebook Comments Box

Find us on Facebook!