HIV: A Gay Disease?
While many in the medical and gay community have argued against this message for decades, it is now the centerpiece of a new HIV awareness campaign by the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. This series of magazine and bus shelter ads is sure to stir up critics; gay and straight alike.
In 1981, AIDS was first reported to the public as a "Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals" by the New York Times. For several years that followed it was still considered the "gay disease". Although HIV was in fact plaguing the gay community, the horror surrounding the disease stigmatized an already marginalized minority. As the disease spread to straight people it was even believed that transmission had come from a homosexual in each instance.
The Gay & Lesbian Center reports that 75% of HIV cases in L.A. County come from male to male transmission, and that recognition of this fact should help increase testing and assistance to the community.
But will this campaign help to stifle the apathy of the gay community towards AIDS, or just smear its public image? If we call HIV a gay disease, won't that make other high risk minority groups less likely to get tested? Perhaps the level of controversy surrounding this campaign alone will make people of all groups more inclined to get tested.