|by Sal Seeley LCSW|
|Why Bother? Do You Really Make a Difference?
Recently, we were doing outreach on the beach when a person asked, "What difference do you think you are really making? Guys are going to take risks regardless of what you hand out or what message you give." I admit it was a good question, and one that had crossed my mind before. This is my answer to why we do what we do at CAMP Rehoboth and why it's more important now than ever before.
The new HIV rates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) increase the estimate of new HIV infections from 40,000 to 56,000 annually, with a range of 48,200 to 64,500. The data shows that the HIV infection rate is not falling and may very possibly be increasing significantly.
The new estimates are published in the August 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Here is what's really scary! The revision also includes a back-calculation revealing that, for the last 15 years, infection rates were approximately 25 to 50 percent higher than the long-held 40,000 annual estimate.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates reveal a steady rise in infections occurring since the early 1990s, with increases primarily among gay men and African Americans.
The revised estimates of new HIV infections occurring in 2006 also reveal that:
Male-to-male sexual contact accounted for 53 percent of HIV transmissions
African Americans comprised 45 percent of new infections
34 percent of new infections occurred among people ages 13 to 29; with another 31 percent occurring among people ages 30 to 39.
73 percent of HIV transmissions occurred among men
The new estimates confirm that a vast majority of new infections in the U.S. occur in gay and bisexual men, and that Blacks are significantly more heavily impacted than other racial/ethnic categories
So, what's the problem with prevention programs around our country? I don't think there is an easy answer. The answer I gave the man who expressed his frustration at prevention programs, is that we can never stop repeating the message.
What can you do? Be there as a mentor for younger gay men. Support those who are going through a hard time. Don't be ashamed to take a stand when you see someone you love making bad choices. We can't rely on our government to make a difference. The difference will come when gay men around the world unite and take care of their own community instead of being wimpy, conceited, and selfish all for the pursuit of pleasure.
Sal Seeley is Program Director of CAMPsafe, an HIV/AIDS program funded through a contract with the Delaware Division of Public Health. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Confidential HIV testing is available at CAMP Rehoboth. Call Sal at 302-227-5620 to schedule an appointment.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 11 August 08, 2008