National LGBT Leaders Renew Commitment to Fight HIV/AIDS
Leaders of the LGBT equality and civil rights movement issued an urgent statement five days after gathering in Washington, DC, regarding continuing signs of the unabated impact of the HIV epidemic across the United States. The leaders are calling for a renewed effort to address the HIV epidemic and its devastating impact, especially in black gay communities. The gathering was convened by the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition and the National Coalition for LGBT Health.
"When the AIDS crisis began, the LGBT community came together with great force," said Darrel Cummings, Chief of Staff at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, a member of the National Coalition for LGBT Health's board of directors which led the call for the gathering. "But with the advent of effective treatments, the growth of organizations focused just on HIV, and as the epidemic has moved into communities of color, HIV has largely fallen off the agenda for the leading LGBT civil rights groups."
A 2005 study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in five major cities showed that 46% of black gay men had acquired HIV and that 67% of them were unaware of their HIV status. Surveillance data released by the New York City Health Department in September 2007 and other recent reports has heightened the concern of the leaders about the epidemic's continued impact, especially among black gay men.
"It is shameful that 25 years into the epidemic, the National Institutes of Health has not done the research and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not given us the tools to stop the impact of HIV in black gay communities," said Ernest Hopkins, Policy Committee Chair for the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition and director of federal affairs at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Of 129 interventions developed to address HIV in African Americans, only one has been designed or adapted for black gay men. Additionally, very little research has been conducted to determine the actual costs of high rates of HIV among black gay men in the United States.
"Our communities cannot accept that our lives are not worth the effort to engage in the research, prevention and care necessary to improve our health and better our lives," the leaders' statement reads.
Other LGBT leadership organizations participating in the meeting and their representatives were: Arcus Foundation (Cindy Rizzo), Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (Rashad Robinson), Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (Joel Ginsberg), Lambda Legal (Kevin Cathcart and Bebe Anderson), Log Cabin Republicans (Patrick Sammon), National Black Justice Coalition (Earl Plante), National Stonewall Democrats (Jon Hoadley) and the Task Force (Matt Foreman).
Also participating in the meeting were Hutson Innis, a member of the National Coalition for LGBT Health's board of directors, Rudy Carn, chair of the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition, and A. Cornelius Baker, National Policy Advisor for the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition.
THE NATIONAL COALITION FOR LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER HEALTH is committed to improving the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and communities through public education, coalition building and advocacy that focus on research, policy, education and training.
THE NATIONAL BLACK GAY MEN'S ADVOCACY COALITION is committed to improving the health and well-being of Black Gay Men through advocacy that is focused on research, policy, education and training.
Statement of National Leadership Organizations in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Equality and Civil Rights Movement on the HIV Epidemic in Black Gay Communities:
"As a concerned group of leaders in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality and civil rights movement, we gathered in Washington, DC on October 24, 2007 to focus our attention to the continuing and unabated threat of the HIV epidemic in our communities. We are expressly concerned about the impact of HIV among black, gay men.
"Our concerns are fueled in part by the startling Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released in June 2005 showing a 46 % infection rate among black gay men in 5 major cities, surveillance data from the New York City Health Department in September 2007 showing a 33% increase of new HIV diagnoses over the past six years among gay men under age 30, and recent publications and presentations from Dr. Ron Stall at the University of Pittsburgh and Gregorio Millet at the CDC demonstrating the many challenges remaining in bringing the HIV epidemic under control. The lack of an urgent response to this health crisis among a vulnerable group of our citizens is shameful and inexcusable in the United States. Our communities cannot accept that our lives are not worth the effort to engage in the research, prevention or care necessary to improve our health and better our lives.
"We call on the leaders of our nation's LGBT organizations to join us in placing an aggressive response to the HIV epidemic among black gay men at the center of our agenda. We also call on all sectors of society, including government, media and philanthropy, to urgently address this disturbing situation across our country. Our organizations have pledged to move forward in coalition with the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition, the National Coalition for LGBT Health and others in the coming days and months to turn the tide of this epidemic and the devastating impact it is having in the lives of so many in our communities."
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Gay and Lesbian Medical Association
Log Cabin Republicans
National Black Justice Coalition
The Task Force