Special to The Washington Post.
In the 1980s, AIDS ravaged gay communities across the country. Gay and bisexual men of all races, classes and walks of life were falling ill, dying or attending their friends’ funerals every week.
It seemed that society was essentially allowing people to die from “the fact that not enough rich, white, heterosexual men have gotten AIDS,” as the late HIV-positive gay activist Vito Russo put it in 1988.
The LGBT community united to demand action and address the reality that although HIV did not discriminate, the power structures that could help save lives sure did.
Today, however, HIV does appear to discriminate. More than six in 10 new infections in the United States are among men who have sex with men, known in this field as MSM. Within that group, the hardest-hit are African American men ages 13 to 29. From 2006 to 2009,CDC data show, HIV infections rose by an appalling 48 percent among these young men — one of the largest increases of any demographic. New HIV cases among black MSM are nearly equal to those for their white counterparts, despite the former’s far smaller percentage of the population.
This alarming disparity is one that the 19th International AIDS Conference, which begins Sunday in Washington, will address.
Even while this crisis has grown, help in combatting it has been shrinking. HIV no longer seems to be a priority for some in the gay community. Foundations focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, which have historically provided millions of dollars in crucial funding for HIV service organizations, are shifting their resources elsewhere. The fight is different now. There is a lack of urgency among some well-off, white gay men, a segment of the LGBT community that was crucial in battling HIV and turning the tide in the 1980s and ’90s.
I have worked in health and HIV services since virtually the start of the epidemic, and I know how hard it is to raise money to support desperately needed services. But in the past few years, it has become more difficult than ever, even as infection rates, particularly among gay
This article originally appeared on: http://www.nola.com/newsflash/index.ssf/story/aids-has-become-less-of-a-priority-for-gay-activists/4df70d73338a892d4087e92c3596dbcf