Staggering rates of HIV among gay and bisexual men that no one is talking about

There’s a significant hazard that is threatening the lives of the LGBT community the world over that everyone appears to be ignoring. With the ever-increasing frequency of Gay Pride Parades, one would have thought these issues would have been highlighted. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In 2012, the Government of India submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court which asserted that 7% of the estimated gay population was suffering from HIV. The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) in a 2015-16 annual report claimed that 4.3% of gay men were living with HIV. The National HIV prevalence rate was pegged at 0.26%.

Such high rates of HIV among the LGBT population is not limited only to India. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that although gay and bisexual men made up only 2% of the U.S. population, they accounted for 70% of new HIV infections.

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Globally, Men who have sex with Men (MSM) are 24 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population. In 2014 and 2015, MSM accounted for 54% of new HIV infections in Western Europe, 68% in North America and 30% in Latin America and the Caribbean. In fact, MSM is a high-risk vulnerable group to AIDS along with sex workers, intravenous drug users and clients of sex workers.

HIV is not the only disease that threatens the well-being of members of the LGBT community. The community appears to suffer from higher rates of mental illness than the average population and also has higher suicide rates. Dr Dinesh Ponraj, a Chennai-based venereologist, claimed that 60-70% members of the community are on a regular dose of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. In the USA, the CDC reported that Queer teens are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Studies have also reported that the LGBT population is 3 times more likely to suffer from mental illness and are less healthy than the general population.

LGBT Activism, in recent years, has focused mostly on the issue of mental illness affecting the community but it has almost completely ignored the even higher rates of HIV affecting the members of the community. Activists who are genuinely concerned about the well-being of the LGBT community should not prioritize one over the other.

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