This month (June), we celebrate the LGBTQ community — individuals, advocates and organizations — who have impacted the sweeping political, social and scientific advances since the Pride marches began 50 years ago.
As a scientist and public health researcher, I have spent my career with brilliant teams driving medical, scientific and public health progress. The field has made major breakthroughs relating to HIV/AIDS, and some of these groundbreaking scientific and socio-political accomplishments include:
- HIV medications that transformed an HIV diagnosis from a death sentence to a chronic illness, now referred to as combination antiretroviral therapy (cART)
- Meds that can protect you from getting infected with HIV, or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
- HIV testing and treatment as prevention
- The use of advocates to impact change in HIV funding, care and treatment
- Addressing stigma, bias, and discrimination as part of a medical framework
- Outreach and education to high risk populations
- Revolutionary Cascade of Care framework developed and established as a standard paradigm for HIV care from diagnosis to treatment — now used with opioid addiction, diabetes care, and countless other chronic diseases
Because of the advances in medicine, many now think of and treat HIV as a chronic illness. However, just because it’s no longer a death sentence does not give us permission to shove it under the rug and ignore its continued impact on health in specific populations. While new HIV infections leveled in 2013; there were almost 38,000 new cases in 2018, and gay and bisexual men (men who have sex with men or MSM) accounted for 62% (23,465) of those infections (CDC, 2019). African American and Hispanic/Latino MSM have consistently grown to be higher risk groups for HIV. The pie charts below detail the racial disparities in newly HIV-infected MSM, with non-white MSM representing 45% of all new cases in 2018; and almost 73% of new MSM cases.
I went into public health because I saw firsthand how stigma, ignorance, fear, and social bias impacted the trajectory of my uncle’s care as an HIV-infected individual and a gay man in New York. Witnessing his journey taught me that medical breakthroughs were only as good as the ability to apply them to all populations equally, without prejudice.
Let’s not forget those we have lost. Let’s continue the fight and stand proud with our friends and family. Pride month is meant to celebrate our differences. Let’s use it as an opportunity for awareness and prevention and to continue the fight against health inequality and inequalities in general.
Centers for Disease Control. (2020, April 17). U.S. Statistics. Retrieved June 04, 2020, from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/statistics
(Ed.). (n.d.). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month: Library of Congress. Retrieved June 03, 2020, from https://www.loc.gov/lgbt-pride-month/about/
Macalino, G. E. (2020, June 10). Racism is a Public Health Issue. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://39c8ae3ba5.nxcli.net/racism-is-a-public-health-issue/
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP). (2020, May). Retrieved June 09, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/