Monday, August 11, 2008

Homophobic Like Us

A report from the global AIDS conference in Mexico City focuses on HIV prevention campaigns in the developing world and how gay men are often excluded or ignored in countries like Thailand, India and Malawi. These are important stories, but it's both deceptive and arrogant when people believe that this kind of willful neglect, based on bigotry, only exists in those places.

While the article focuses on places where HIV transmission is occurring largely through heterosexual sex, it doesn't deal with the fact that even in the United States, where gay and bisexual men make up a large percentage of HIV cases, we have a similar ignorance of homosexuality in prevention campaigns. And really, when you think about it is far more unconscionable, since gays make up the majority of cases here. This passage is used to describe the situation in Malawi:

AIDS activists say they avoid using words like "homosexual" or "gay" and instead use the label "men who have sex with men," or MSM, so their work is not impeded by the stigma.

In fact, AIDS activists, researchers and health care workers in the U.S. have had to avoid the exact same language in dealing with the Bush administration's Health and Human Services Department and National Institutes of Health over these 8 years. This article from 2003 explains how using the word "gay" could cost researchers a grant. Oh, but we are so much more civilized than all those people in the third world, right?