When men started getting sick and dying 35 years ago we took to the streets. We demanded that the government respond to an epidemic that was obliterating our community. We fought for increased access to quality healthcare, and we stood up against homophobia. Activists changed how our government functioned, how research was conducted, and forced America to take notice of our community and the devastation we were enduring.
Activism changed our country.
There have been groundbreaking advancements in HIV research, treatment and prevention. Healthcare has been extended to millions of Americans, and the fight against HIV was instrumental in laying the groundwork for marriage equality. We’ve lived through the hard fought wins of this struggle. We’ve marched forward to advance human rights and equality.
We will not go back.
The ResistMarch on June 11 in Los Angeles is the ideal opportunity to continue the march forward in the fight against HIV.
Healthcare is a basic human right. In the U.S. that right is under sustained attack. Immigrants, who have been excluded from the ACA, struggle for access to healthcare in a country that denies their humanity. The attacks on Planned Parenthood continue and women, in particular women of color, see their options for healthcare decrease or disappear. The trans community fights just to be able to use the bathroom of their choice, as well as for access to quality and culturally competent care. This is why we march on.
We all want to be able to determine what we do with our own body, without interference from the government. Women must be able to able choose the course of their reproductive health, and abortion must be safe, legal and accessible. How one chooses to express their gender is innately personal, yet opposition to such expressions had led to harassment and violence. What consenting adults choose to do with their bodies in pursuit of sexual pleasure has been pathologized, stigmatized and criminalized. This is why we march on.
The lifetime risk of HIV for all gay men in this country is 1 in 6. For black gay men it is 1 in 2, and for Latino gay men it’s 1 in 4. However, structural homophobia and racism keep much needed prevention and treatment resources from the communities that are most severely impacted by this epidemic. Our president wants to cut $350 million from HIV funding at a time when scientific advancements have radically transformed the epidemic. PrEP is an HIV prevention pill that is 99% effective at preventing HIV when taken daily. Substantial economic and cultural barriers prevent full access to PrEP, and those that could benefit most from the prevention do not have access to it. This is why we march on.
I am HIV-positive and have been living with HIV for over 21 years. I have an undetectable viral load, which means I can enjoy a normal life span and it’s also virtually impossible to transmit the virus. Scientific advancements, activism, and a will to invest in gay men’s lives have helped us stay healthy but it also means that HIV-positive people can be active participants in our communities. We can start a business, we can build a family, we can create art and culture, and we can continue to fight for access and equality. The epidemic continues. More information, access and action is needed to bring it to an end. This is why we march on.
The world we live in has dramatically changed. Our rights are under attack, and our government is openly hostile to our communities. The progress we’ve made against this epidemic is being threatened. The health of individuals and the health of our communities are at stake. Once again, we must take to the streets to demand access and equality. We will march. We will resist. We will succeed. Our lives depend on it.
— Alex Garner is an executive for Hornet, a gay men’s social network.
Hornet is working to foster a community that is affirming and sex positive. We create opportunities to discuss HIV status and receive testing reminders because we are committed to the health and wellness of our community. We understand that it requires determination and a fighting spirit, which sometimes means taking it to the streets.