Category Archives: AIDS/HIV

White House Strategy Plan on AIDS


HRC Issue Brief: HIV/AIDS and the LGBT Community

The Problem

While HIV and AIDS affect Americans across the country and from all walks of life, the epidemic continues to disproportionately impact gay and bisexual men[1] and transgender people, particularly among young people and in communities of color. While tremendous medical advances have helped people live longer, healthier lives with the virus, there remains no cure and tens of thousands of new infections occur every year. Insufficient funding for HIV/AIDS programs, ideological restrictions on prevention, and persistent stigma and discrimination continue to make it difficult to fight the epidemic and provide the best care to those living with the virus.

Epidemic continues to disproportionately affect segments of the LGBT community

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over a million Americans currently living with HIV and approximately 50,000 new infections every year. More than half of those new infections are among gay and bisexual men. Among groups identified at higher risk for infection, only among gay and bisexual men is the rate of new infections increasing – and the highest rate of new infections within that group is among young black men. While the data on the transgender community is more limited, it also shows a disproportionately high rate of infection, particularly, again, in communities of color.

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Prevention, treatment and research programs are underfunded and often hampered by ideological restrictions

Despite a long history of HIV/AIDS impacting gay and bisexual men, until relatively recently, prevention efforts have not been sufficiently focused on or funded in this community, a problem also facing transgender people at risk for infection. While Congress has provided some increases in federal dollars for prevention, treatment and research in recent years, decades of neglect and difficult economic times mean that the needs still outstrip the available resources. In one example, many state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), which help provide HIV medications to underinsured and uninsured individuals, have been forced to implement waiting lists and scale back the drugs that they provide. These federal programs are also hampered by policy decisions grounded in ideology rather than science – such as providing more than a billion dollars for failed abstinence-only sex education, while barring any federal funds for scientifically-proven prevention through syringe exchange programs.

Discrimination puts LGBT people at risk for infection and burdens those living with HIV

For most LGBT people, there remain little or no protections against discrimination in employment, housing and other areas based on sexual orientation and gender identity; for minorities within the LGBT community, racial and other forms of bias compound an already challenging situation. The potential consequences – job loss, lack of access to healthcare, homelessness – can push individuals into risk behaviors that greatly increase their HIV risk and can severely limit the ability of those who become infected to obtain adequate care. Furthermore, despite societal progress in understanding HIV and AIDS, people living with the virus still regularly encounter stigma, stereotyping and discrimination at work, at school, in healthcare settings and elsewhere.

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What has the Obama administration done to address HIV/AIDS within the LGBT community?

  • The White House released a first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy, explicitly including gay and bisexual men and transgender people in its plan to reduce infections, increase access to care and reduce disparities.
  • The President signed the Affordable Care Act into law, which expands Medicaid to permit low-income individuals earlier access to treatment for HIV and eliminates preexisting condition limitations which have prevented many HIV-positive individuals from accessing private insurance.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rescinded regulations barring people with HIV from entering the U.S. for travel or immigration. As a result, the International AIDS Conference will be held in the U.S. for the first time in over 20 years.
  • HHS is studying how to revise the current lifetime ban on blood donation by gay and bisexual men.

How is HRC working on HIV/AIDS?

  • HRC continues to push Congress to provide the strongest possible federal response to the epidemic through fully-funded prevention, treatment and research programs. HRC fights policies based on ideology, not science, including the funding of abstinence-only education and bans on federal dollars for syringe exchange programs.
  • HRC lobbies Congress to provide funding for science-based, comprehensive sex education, which provides all youth the tools they need to live healthy lives and reduces new HIV infections.
  • HRC is pushing HHS to undertake the research necessary to revise current blood donation policy and permit willing, low-risk gay and bisexual men to donate.
  • HRC is also working with HHS to ensure that the Affordable Care Act is implemented in the most inclusive way possible for LGBT people, including those living with HIV.

Focusing HIV Prevention Efforts on Gay and Bisexual Men

Posted by Brian Bond on September 27, 2010 at 09:54 AM EST

Today is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. For me, every day is an “awareness day” about HIV/AIDS.  I feel it is important for me to talk about it, because I am increasingly concerned that many in the LGBT community don’t. I am worried about the kids out there and the generation that hasn’t seen the devastating impact of this epidemic the way my generation has.  Now more than ever we need to be talking about HIV/AIDS.  Just a few days ago The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new heartbreaking data showing that one in five gay and bisexual men in 21 major US cities are living with HIV.  I am one of those men. I have been living with HIV since 2001.

I have the privilege of serving as the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and President Obama’s Liaison to the LGBT community.  I want to share a personal perspective on the importance of the recently released National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States that was issued by the Obama Administration in July. While I work closely with the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), I was not directly involved in writing the plan, but I clearly have a personal stake in the mission.

The Strategy provides a vision for America that puts saving the lives of gay and bisexual men front and center in our national plan for ending HIV/AIDS through preventing new HIV infections, increasing access to care, and reducing HIV-related health disparities.  Not only is the Strategy the first comprehensive plan for responding to the domestic AIDS crisis, it is perhaps the first time that our national policy dialogue could be so forthright about the disproportionate impact of HIV among gay and bisexual men.  While we have great HIV leaders across the Federal government, this honesty, grounded in the latest data results from President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to ensuring that Federal policies are based on facts about who is most affected and what programs and policies work most effectively.

Gay and bisexual men make up roughly 2% of the US population, but we account for 53% of new HIV infections. We are the only group where HIV infection rates are rising.

These statistics are shocking and they demand a stronger, more focused national response that includes Federal leadership, combined with new levels of commitment and focus at the State and local levels.  These data also demands a reinvigorated commitment to ending HIV/AIDS from the LGBT community.  We all have a responsibility to reverse that trend.

I encourage all of you to read the Strategy and Federal Implementation Plan.  In addition to describing the challenges, it presents a roadmap for responding that includes increased attention on high risk communities including gay and bisexual men, along with Transgender Americans, Black Americans, Latino Americans and substance users.  The Strategy also calls for new efforts to reduce infections, and calls for us to take new steps to end stigma and discrimination.  In the President’s budget proposal for next year (that begins on October 1st), he also proposed a new initiative at CDC to take a more holistic approach to preventing HIV in the LGBT community with promoting sexual health and preventing sexually transmitted infections.

There is a lot to be done, but I have seen firsthand that our President and his whole Administration are committed to this task – working in partnership with the LGBT community and others.  I feel like we all have a responsibility to do this for the kids out there, and also in the memory of those who have fought this fight before us. There is barely a day that goes by that I don’t think of my dear friend, Bob Hattoy, an activist and appointee in the Clinton Administration that helped shine a light on this epidemic.  He is for me a constant reminder of the work ahead of us and the responsibility we all share.