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AIDS Kills 7,000 Gay Men In The U.S. Each Year


My comments this past weekend, after HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE won a GLAAD Media Award for Best Documentary:

Thanks to Herndon Graddick and GLAAD for this award, and for saying that this history is important. Thanks to Anderson Cooper for bringing our stories to a larger audience, for remembering our heroes like Spencer Cox, and for having the kind of empathy and humility that was exemplified by Vito Russo. And thanks to Joy Tomchin, Howard Gertler, the team at IFC, and especially David France, for beautifully capturing, for all time, those tragic yet inspiring years too few of us survived.

As Larry Kramer said, the AIDS activism that led to the breakthrough treatments in 1996 stands as the proudest achievement the gay population of this world can every claim. But let's face it. A lot of us walked away from the fight after the drugs came out. Given the overwhelming fatigue we all felt after 15 years of unrelenting death, wanting to put this behind us was understandable.

But the AIDS crisis didn't end. We've let our guard down, and it shows. An estimated 30,000 gay men in this country became infected with HIV in 2010. Gay men are only about 2% of the U.S. population, but we're now the fastest growing group of new infections, accounting for 63% of total infections in recent years. Most of these are young gay men, and over half of these 13-24 year-olds are black gay men. Why aren't these numbers shocking us?

Nearly 7,000 gay men still die from AIDS in this country each year. I realize that gay marriage is important and worth fighting for, but shouldn't our national gay rights groups be doing more than token levels of activism around HIV/AIDS? This is by far the biggest health care issue in the gay community, but we are getting rolled as on AIDS policy these days, whether it's the newly reinstituted ban on funding needle exchange, or laws criminalizing people with HIV, or the minuscule amounts the CDC spends for prevention targeting gay men.

We have the power and the tools now to turn around these infection rates. We proved it once, we can do it again. We can end this silence, and finish the job. We can all act up a little for the health of future generations. Thanks for listening.

Peter on:


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Comments on Peter Staley's blog entry "AIDS Kills 7,000 Gay Men In The U.S. Each Year"

I just saw the film at my support group. Thank you!!! i have only known about my status (+) since 23 Apr of last year. Thanks you you and guys and girls like you, I get the meds I need Thank you!

I absolutely agree with Peter. We have let the fight down. HIV/AIDS activism not only brought hope and well being, but also created jobs for thousands of Americans through community based organizations aimed to address the needs of the HIV positive, as well as HIV negative, people. However, the spirit for advocacy is lacking greatly. I have been accessing services at these CBOs, and I have experienced the dismissive attitude from these workers. I feel they just fill out forms and that is where their work ends. There is no commitment to the fight or to the mission. It is unfortunate and I believe that this issue should be put under the magnifier as well.

Thanks guys for your amazing commitment to the fight against AIDS. You are nothing short of being heroes. I am in awe. Joe

AIDS research should be a priority of Gay Rights groups, and also the CDC and other medical branches. We were told that AIDS is no longer a Gay Disease, but that is not totally true - it is everyone's disease. I agree we let our gaurd down!

I have always said that gay men's health should be a priority over the same sex marriage issue, however, they don't seem to see it that way. We can have all of the prevention dollars imaginable, but that won't change the high infection rates in our community. Why? It's the gay men's obsession with cum and unsafe sex practices. It cracks me up when I read personal ads from losers looking for someone who is "DDF", when they are looking for bareback sex. Come On Get Real Guys!!! Keep looking for bareack sex and you wont be "DDF" for long. Until the gay community stops glorifying unsafe sex practices we will still have high infection rates.

Dear Peter,

I am writing to you to express my most sincere gratitude for all that you have done for the gay community. You, your friends and the men of your generation now provide a legacy which gays of my generation should be and are immensely proud of- its hard for me to articulate this because it is something that I feel that words cannot adequately express- in short your altruistic actions leave me speechless but also enshrine you as a shining beacon of light within an all to cruel world .

I recently read Randy Shilts' 'And The Band Played On'. This book had such a monumental impact upon my life and recently watching How To Survive A Plague has also completely reaffirmed my position, desire and most importantly need too, in new and different ways continue the work which you are such a pivotal person in.

Mere words do not express my thankfulness and sincere gratitude. You have, through your actions and agency, inadvertently shaped Gay History and had a monumental impact upon the lives of millions of others and although you probably do not need me to affirm that for you I want you to know of the impact you have had upon my life alone.

I hope this finds you happy and well. If you are ever in Australia I would love to buy you a drink!

21, Melbourne, Australia.

Wow, thanks Sam!

I just saw the documentary and was moved by your determination. As a straight man, I've never given much thought to aids. I'm surprised by how much your struggles moved me. Having fought in 2 needless wars, and serving an intolerant government, your comment on returning was poignant. Keep fighting!

My thanks to you and others who worked so hard comes very late.
I am a 30+ year survivor.
My body and mind are not what they should be for a 54 year old guy but I AM STILL HERE!
I will be forever in debt to those of you who saved my life.

Where are you getting the 7,000 figure? What source or sources?

See table 11b, page 42:

You are an inspiration. My wife just had me watch "How To Survive A Plague". I looked at her after and told her I wonder what Peter Staley thinks about the fact that gay men are still becoming infected. I personally have 2 friends living with HIV. This prompted me to look you up. Thank you for continuing to fight. I can only imagine how hard it must be to have lost so many loved ones. But they are all looking at you and smiling.


Dear Peter,

I feel very connected to your active voice in the community. I started an NGO for people living with HIV to engage international service,Volunteer Positive.​ What I have realized, now that the term has been coined, is that I was designing something that impacts Aids Survival Syndrome directly.​ ​I have seen amazing transformations in the lives of the volunteers who have traveled with me. I am planning on meeting Tez Anderson of and was hoping to meet you as well, or at least have a phone conversation/interview. POZ Magazine did a wonderful article/interview written by Oriol in 2011, the same year Volunteer Positive made their top 100 list. It helped launch my work.

This month I became involved with a social innovation project at Portland State University as a community professional where my work is going to be put in a development accelerator. I am thrilled, but part of my work is to expand my connection to others leading the way, and I feel like you are surely one such person. I would be sharing my talk with you, and your insights, with the social accelerator community here in Portland. Would you do me the honor of an interview?

Please feel free to reach out. Carlton


Peter: Your movement does still have work to do. At the same time, you have accomplished huge things. Today, the annual death rate from HIV/AIDS in the US is less than the death rate from homicide and 1/4 the death rate from suicide. That's mostly because of what you all accomplished over several decades.

I've thought the mental health movement had important things to learn from your community ever since I read John D'Emilio's "Sexual Politics ..." Like you, stigma is one of our largest battlegrounds. Our status is close to 1950s gay community -- don't tell if you want to keep your job. But I've started to think that suicide will become our HIV/AIDS. It is among top 5 causes of death for ages 10-54, with military veterans representing 20 percent of annual suicides.

Now I'm seeing that you face the same kind of rising stigma and internal stigma that we do, also seemingly as a result of effective available treatment. This makes me really want to talk. Can we connect?

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Staley published on March 19, 2013 10:02 AM.

The Cure Baby, The Berlin Patient, And A Cure For The Rest Of Us was the previous entry in this blog.

Is This My Beautiful Life? is the next entry in this blog.

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