It’s hard to believe that it was just decades ago that the globe was gripped by the HIV epidemic. The human immunodeficiency virus, considered to be the forerunner to AIDS, left communities devastated, particularly many in the LGBTQ community. While strides have been made to make sure that HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was, the epidemic still looms large among gay and queer people who may have lost loved ones, or are still dealing with the stigma of their status.
HIV Medication Development
HIV remains a major public health crisis in the United States and abroad. While strides have been made in medication and treatment of this terrible virus, people do continue to contract the disease. The number of HIV cases globally remains heavily disproportionate within the LGBTQ community, with transgender people being hit especially hard by the epidemic on the global stage. The LGBTQ community has worked to put a spotlight on risk prevention through safe sex and PreP for gay men. Add to that, medical developments have made HIV less of a death sentence.
Prescription drugs like Truvada treat HIV infection and reduce the risk of transmission. However, there have been concerns over the safety of Truvada for patients. A recent Truvada lawsuit reveals that Gilead, the drug’s manufacturer, withheld a safer form of the medication from the market despite knowing of untold side effects among users. Abdominal pain and back pain, linked to kidney damage, were among the more severe side effects recognized. With several patients being left significantly ill, it became pertinent to hold Gilead responsible for failing those who have the virus.
The Stigma Of The Virus
Within the LGBTQ community, there’s a greater emphasis than ever on truth in your HIV status, even listing it on dating apps. However, discrimination and uncertainty still remain present in the daily lives of gay men and transgender people. Queer couples have turned to gay couples therapy to address the mental health issues that have arisen from how they are treated regarding status, and how it impacts their home life.
While recent medical developments have shown that being positive but undetectable means you cannot pass on HIV to a partner, some outside the LGBTQ community don’t see the difference. This stress and contempt felt by a gay man who has HIV can lead to an underlying sadness, impacting their relationship quality because of this feeling of being unwanted. That sense of abandonment is tragically a tremendous theme of mental health concerns in the LGBTQ community, as some families are not as accepting of their rainbow child as others are.
Remembering The Lost
While HIV medications and treatment are more prevalent than ever, a lack of funding has left the LGBTQ community fearing a return to decades past, where the virus befell friends and family left and right. While the push to draw more attention to safety, medication, and treatment continues, the memory of those lost to HIV and AIDS never dwells. Charities and memorials have sought to create a safe space for those who are HIV positive or have lost someone to AIDS to properly remember their loved ones.
The month of June is recognized as Pride Month for the LGBTQ community and has allowed for issues that impact everyone under the rainbow to come to national attention. This has put a focus on the discriminatory laws and legal action that still exists against queer people, while also acknowledging the strides that have been made in recent years. It’s important to honor those who lost their lives to this disease while continuing to create a better, more inclusive future with safer drugs and treatment for HIV.