Thursday, December 15, 2005

Education, Awareness & Prevention: Just as important as LGBT equality

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At UNCG PRIDE!’s last meeting of the fall semester, the group did an educational discussion and presentation for World AIDS Day. Basically, the group covered education on HIV/AIDS and other sexual health topics (earlier post). After this study, it should be extremely clear to the LGBT community that education and awareness is needed on HIV/AIDS and other sexual health topics, especially since there are some in the straight community who think the homosexual “lifestyle” is unhealthy. I said it at the UNCG PRIDE! meeting and I say it again here: The younger generation (18-24 years of age) of the LGBT community has let our guard down on HIV/AIDS and sexual health. Being born in the mid-eighties, right in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, we were not yet old enough to see first-hand the health dangers and risks associated with unsafe and risky sexual practices. It is time for the younger LGBT community to be educated. It is time for all LGBT groups, from college groups to national groups, to start putting more effort into HIV/AIDS and sexual health education and awareness. The new study which I referenced above concerns “circuit parties” which are nothing more than large celebratory dance events usually organized and attended mainly by the younger LGBT demographic. The study tracked the prevalence of HIV/AIDS transmissions at “circuit parties” and the rate of unprotected and/or risky sexual practices at these parties. In the article about the study, a researcher says that the answer would not be to shut down the “circuit parties” but rather to simply focus on education, awareness and prevention:
The answer, the Northwestern study concludes, is not a crackdown on circuit parties. “Shutting down the parties would send them underground and possibly exaggerate risky behavior,” Ghaziani says. “Rather we extrapolate findings from existing public health literature and studies about drug use and sexual behavior to propose creative strategies to reduce the rates of potential HIV infection.”
As a young gay man, just about to the age of 20, I have had enough life experience to know that sexual health is something which really needs to be harped on within the 18-24 year old LGBT crowd. As a group we are more likely to be exposed to HIV/AIDS and we more highly participate in risky and/or unprotected sexual practices. LGBT groups everywhere need to step up… by not doing all that we can to provide education and awareness now we are only adding to the problem. But I should also say this… homophobic and anti-gay bigotry, hatred, discrimination and prejudice needs to end. If the LGBT community were fully accepted as members of our society many of the problems associated with our community would cease to be problems. Education… Awareness… Prevention… we need it now and we need it just as much as equality.