On December 1, 2013, Mālama Pono Health Services hosted a candle light vigil in honor of these we have lost, those who live with the virus and those who offer kokua in the form of service and donations to all at risk. The group of 15 or so people gathered in the sand at Kalapaki Beach Park, in front of Duke’s Bar with candles, thoughts and prayers. Tears were shed, hopes were raised and for some, frustration was expressed.
One attendee referenced his happiness that there were “elders” in the group along with folks in their teens and twenties. He reflected on the difference that having been alive and out in 1980’s made for an understanding of how the virus ravaged a community – took friends, family and lovers. He worried for his generation, a generation that missed the almost immediate death an HIV diagnosis brought. He believes this is the source of the gaps in safer sex practice among young gay men which some researchers and leaders have suggested could lead to a “New Generation of AIDS.” One such author is Perry N. Halkitis, author of “The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience. His opinion was shared in an article on CNN. Even the Medical News Today posts how having high knowledge about HIV didn’t always make a difference in how risky sexual behavior was.
The National Institutes of Health released a study in 2011 that indicates if we in the US were all able to get an HIV test and know our status and to get on treatment if we are positive, we could cut new infection rates by 96%. That means from the current current 50,000 + a year to less than a few thousand.
We seem to be at a crossroads. We know that safer sex, testing and treatment could almost eliminate new infections, yet the younger generations are leaving safer sex practices behind and testing in many communities is still a “taboo.” Stigma related to coming out, HIV stigma and drug use are additional reasons, for sure.
So what can we do to prevent a “New AIDS Generation?” Many things can be done-
- If you are an “elder” gay man (over 45) or have lost a someone to HIV/AIDS, share your story
- If you are a man who has sex with men, get tested regularly and use a condom
- If you are HIV positive, practice safer sex and share how HIV has changed your life
- BE YOURSELF! If you are a man who has sex with men, find a path to being proud and out about who you are
- If you are HIV positive, find the same path to being out about your status and staying on treatment
- If you live in a community where being gay or Bi is frowned upon get involved in the change movement or move
- Donate your time, your talent and your treasure (cash) to the fight
Your health, the health of the community and the hope for an AIDS-Free generation is all up to you- young gay men, elder gay men, those who love us, those who create policy to protect us. It’s up to you. Each of you.