Featured image: “The Gay Agenda” | Jai Bhahatia
Throughout history, LGBTQ+ individuals have encountered discrimination in various forms, and have been labelled and judged based on stereotypes.
However, one matter that has plagued the LGBTQ+ community is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) epidemic and its lasting effects on the community.
HIV is still perceived to this day as being a disease that predominantly affects gay men. In many countries around the world, LGBTQ+ individuals are singled out as being the main cause of the HIV and AIDS epidemics, particularly by individuals who do not understand the virus.
Despite recent efforts to educate people on HIV and LGBTQ+ culture, there still seems to be a perceived correlation between the virus and a person’s sexual preference.
One of the main reasons for this discrimination is because of homophobic stereotyping. Often times, HIV-positive individuals are accused of jeopardizing the image of LGBTQ+ people altogether. A survey conducted of HIV-negative Latino men found that they had a non-trusting and vindictive attitude towards HIV-positive GBTQ+ men. According to the study: “Some HIV-negative gay men feel that HIV-positive men threaten gay communities, either in terms of health or general perceptions of gay men.”
Studies have also found that some of the underlying causes might be related to race, culture, and traditions, or even internalized perceptions that LGBTQ+ individuals with HIV have.
LGBTQ+ individuals in certain cultures or ethnicities also tend to avoid getting tested, for fear of public scrutiny.
In addition, HIV precedence among GBTQ+ men might stem from the need to maintain a ‘masculine’ image, as well as a lack of access to education in certain conservative countries.
With regards to self-stigma, a study conducted in the United States revealed that internalized homophobia in LGBTQ+ individuals may prevent them from taking the right precautions and getting proper care, based on their race or what they have been taught to follow.
Interestingly, age is a factor that has been considered in HIV discrimination research, and has yielded mixed results. One study found that younger GBTQ+ men with HIV face less sympathy than older men with the same circumstances, while another study found that older individuals encounter more homophobia.
This is due to the belief that younger people receive better HIV education than their older counterparts.
Also, early discovery of the condition plays a role, as “older HIV-positive men are often considered to be at the ‘lowest rung’ of the ‘gay social hierarchy,’” according to studies of GBTQ+ men in the United Kingdom.
In Canada, discriminatory laws still exist regarding blood donations from gay men. The regulation states that gay men have to abstain from intimacy with other gay men for a substantial period before they are able to donate blood. This is an attempt to prevent the spread of HIV through blood transfusion.
This controversy over blood donations from LGBTQ+ people is considered a form of homophobia and labelling by advocates.
Furthermore, it is considered to be medically invalid to prevent gay men from donating blood merely based on possible HIV risks, since health screenings are conducted to prevent possible infections during blood donation.
To this day, there still exists a stigma surrounding STIs, and especially HIV/AIDS, due to the tragedy the LGBTQ+ community has faced. Much of that is a result of ignorance and lack of education regarding what HIV is, and how the virus is contracted.
In recent years, there has been more awareness regarding health safety, as acceptance for LGBTQ+ members is increasing.
Furthermore, public campaigns have been widely successful in combating HIV discrimination.
Still, more work needs to be done in order to debunk common stereotypes concerning LGBTQ+ people, cementing equality for all.
Author: Natasha Ali