One of the most important films of the last few years is "How to Survive a Plague." It's a documentary about the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and it's an important reminder of the horror of that time. Knowing what the community endured has made us stronger and more resilient today. I believe that when we look back at that time, it should make us appreciative of the advancements made since the 80s in the medications provided to those with HIV/AIDS. We are now living in a world with some of the best prescription drugs, but unfortunately not everyone has equal access to that medication. We also live in a world where millions of people are unaware of their status, as they have never been tested and/or do not have equal access to education about testing, medication or safer sex practices.
Making medications more accessible is something we should always work toward; no one should have to suffer an illness that can be managed through education and proper medication. We have a responsibility to provide people with the most accurate information about what their prevention options are. Recently, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, one of the greatest centers for the LGBT community in the world, released a campaign that encouraged people to start using PrEP so they can "F*ck Without Fear," and in the smallest print on the billboard (barely noticeable from the street, let alone in a passing car), it mentions condoms. Messaging like this is particularly dangerous to a younger gay community that's viewing HIV and other STIs as something they don't need to concern themselves with. In the last couple years, our community, in major cities, has seen a nearly 100 percent increase in new STI infections, and yet there are no proposals on how to address this. Throughout history we've seen countless atrocities and those who survived say, "Never forget." A warning that if we do, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes that gave rise to the problem in the first place: The AIDS epidemic is not exempt and is no different.
The LGBT community is quite vast, yet when it comes to the messaging toward us, it is very focused on gay men. While gay men are, and remain, the highest risk for new infections, prevention messaging doesn't address the needs of the bisexual community, it doesn't address those who are transgender/gender non-conforming and lesbians seemingly don't exist in these strategies. While the LGBT community might be one community, each group within it has different needs. I would like to see people responsible for messaging make an effort to learn what those needs are. Once those needs are learned, I believe we will start to see the stronger messaging begin to emerge and a truly healthier tomorrow begin to dawn.
As a community, along with our allies, we have shown our strength when faced with adversity. We've shown that with persistence we can reach a golden age of medications. We've shown that with persistence we can be our brother and sister's keeper. Impulse Group believes in this mission; we believe in the need to be comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. We should not be scaring the next generation but encouraging them. We don't need to shame anyone but teach them to embrace their sexuality while also knowing the risks. We need to empower them to pass on the world after us. Let's leave them with a better, safer and a sexier world.
Jose Ramos is the founder of Impulse Group, an international group dedicated to reaching a new generation of gay and bisexual men on the need to adopt healthier sexual lifestyles.