With this statement, ACT UP is issuing a non-violent declaration of war against the new HIV epidemic—AIDS 2.0—and all of the institutions and organizations that do not mobilize to fight this second epidemic hitting our communities. We will take to the streets; we will work with government agencies to improve HIV prevention programs; we will target federal, state and city cuts to HIV prevention funding; we will research and distribute the latest safe sex and medical information in schools; we will call out ineffective sex education programs; we will target major media, entertainment and LGBT organizations that have disengaged from the AIDS fight; we will not be silent.
- New HIV infections among gay men in the United States are sharply on the rise—up 12% from 2008 to 2010—even as rates fall for other groups.
- For young gay men, there has been a 22 percent spike in new HIV infections.
- Latino men are being infected at 3 times the rate of white men.
- African-American men are being infected at 6 times the rate of white men—and projections from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh indicate that 50% of young gay black men may be HIV+ by the age of 35.
- Transgender women are being infected at 36 times the rate of men and 78 times the rate of other women.
- Young black and Latina women account for over 75 percent of HIV infections among women in their teens and early twenties, but represent only about 26 percent of U.S. women in this age group.
Acting up means getting involved and educating yourself, your friends and your community on how to fuck smarter! Smarter sex starts with knowing your status and finding or creating safe places to talk about your status, whether you're HIV+ or negative. And remember, knowing your partner's HIV status only reduces risk if you ACTUALLY know it—over 50% of young gay guys who are infected with HIV don't know it. If you're HIV+, get medical care and ask about HIV treatment. By adhering to treatment you can maintain your health and greatly reduce the risk that you'll transmit HIV to your partners. Don't contribute to HIV stigma; educate yourself about HIV.
At New York City Pride, ACT UP/NY distributed condoms and lube along with thousands of safe sex fact sheets. But condoms alone won't slow down the new HIV epidemic, which is why our "Fuck Smarter" fact sheet offers information about how to have safer, condomless sex. Learn how to protect yourself with PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)—and with PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis), an antiretroviral drug regimen that can greatly reduce HIV transmission if taken as prescribed after HIV exposure. Fucking smarter can minimize your HIV risk while allowing you to maintain a satisfying sex life. And always remember: If safe sex materials do not speak to you, don't hesitate to act up, demand and create materials that communicate to you and your community.
NYC Pride 2013 occurred during the week that the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, marking a major victory for marriage equality in the United States—but the fight for LGBT rights is an illusion if it comes at the expense of our community's health. Providing comprehensive sex education and access to HIV testing, prevention tools and treatment to all young queers is part of the fight for LGBT rights, and this mobilization is essential for the health of the entire LGBT community. Every member of the community and LGBT person in power should be concerned. If LGBT youth are under threat, the entire community is under threat!
We cannot forget that over 636,000 people United States have died of AIDS—a number greater than the U.S. deaths in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and World War II added together. Approximately 15,000 AIDS-related deaths still occur every year. ACT UP's direct actions in the late 1980s and early '90s were critical in fast-tracking the treatments that dramatically reduced AIDS deaths in the United States. But at the dawn of AIDS 2.0, mobilizing more HIV treatment will not be enough to prevent this second epidemic. If we succeed in turning back the second epidemic, the savings in human suffering and eventual treatment costs could be enormous. If we fail, we will surrender half of a generation of gay men and transgender women to the same virus that killed so many from the last generation.
ACT UP is looking for allies who will protest, die-in, kiss-in, fundraise, march, educate, stop traffic, pamphlet schools, contribute research and make class presentations to fight the new HIV epidemic for the health and lives of our queer youth. At NYC Pride 2013, ACT UP received multiple noise complaints. We were not silent. Please help us turn up the volume and ACT UP!
Photo courtesy of Donjai. Go to actupny.org for more information.