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When the gay & bisexual community talks about the HIV epidemic, they talk about it in past tense. They talk about it as something which plagued the gay & bisexual community during the 80’s and early 90’s. Claiming the lives of countless friends, sons and loved ones.

At the time conservative hard-liners cackled with glee at this gay-plague which in their mind was cleansing society of the sodomites. Meanwhile we watched with sadness and despair as our friends battled with and died from a disease that society didn’t seem to care about.

25 years on and the world is a very different place. In the western world we understand very well how HIV is transmitted, that it isn’t just a risk for gays and bisexuals but for the whole world. Anti-retroviral treatments (where available) have proved effective in prolonging both the duration and quality of life of those suffering from HIV.

Yet we have become complacent.

HIV epidemics are springing up the world over and infection rates are continuing to soar. This is particularly true in Africa, (where the Pope has recently reiterated the Catholic Church’s shameful opposition to condom use) but epidemics are not limited to developing countries. Washington DC has just reported that 3% of over 12’s are infected with HIV/AIDS. This puts the US capital on a par with Uganda for HIV/AIDS infection rates.

Everyone who is sexually active has a duty to behave responsibly. To be aware and to consider the possibility that they or the person who they are sleeping with might carry the virus. This is irrespective of your sexual orientation, though we have to acknowledge that those of us who regularly engage in unprotected anal sex are most at risk.

Remember whilst HIV is no-longer the death sentence it was in the 1980’s. Living with HIV is not easy. The slightest infection, even a common cold can complicate itself into a life threatening condition.

Still, there is hope. Whilst where antiretroviral therapies are available, such as in the UK. A person diagnosed with HIV aged 20 can expect to live another 49 years. Not bad when you consider average life expectancy in the UK is 80. However, this statistic only holds true for those who have their HIV infection diagnosed early, not for those who remain oblivious to their HIV status for years.

The solution:- get tested - know your status. You stand the best chance of living a long and healthy life that way.

Meanwhile in Africa where antiretroviral drugs are not freely available, people are dying needlessly and the epidemic is getting worse.

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    December 2009



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