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GMHC Statement on National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

9.27.2019

For Immediate Release

Media Contacts:
Cub Barrett, CubB@gmhc.org
Krishna Stone, KrishnaS@gmhc.org

 

GMHC Statement on National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

 Reaching Young Black and Latinx Gay Men Through Chosen Families

 

New York, NY (September 27, 2019)–On National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, GMHC reflects on our work with all gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) who are affected by HIV/AIDS. MSM continue to be the population that bears the brunt of new infections.

But on this day, we'd like to focus on a subset of the MSM population most affected: young Black and Latinx MSM, who remain disproportionately impacted by HIV. In its 2017 HIV surveillance report, the New York City Department of Health revealed that 72.8% of new HIV diagnoses in New York City were among MSM--and, among those cases, 75.9% were among Black and Latinx men, and 41.4% were among men ages 20 to 29.

A lot of factors contribute to these staggering numbers, but we know that certain drivers of the epidemic are more pervasive in minority communities, including homophobic and racist experiences; sexual abuse and physical violence; unstable housing and homelessness; a lack of family support, work options, sex education and medical care; depression, alcohol and substance use; and social stigma and poverty.

GMHC has long recognized these issues and runs many services that address them. One of our longest-lasting and most important collaborations on this work is with the House and Ball community, comprised predominately of Black and Latinx lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and structured around "houses." A house is a club or chosen family that includes a "house mother," "house father," and "children" who adopt the house name as their surname (e.g., Luna Khan, Father of the House of Khan, etc.). Members of the houses, both young and old, compete in balls-consisting of categories of vogue dancing, modeling, and costumes--and related activities sponsored by various houses and promoters throughout the year. House mothers and fathers of these chosen families often provide support for LGBT youth who have been rejected by their families and faith communities, and who otherwise might be homeless. Many of these youth are also either living with HIV or at high risk of HIV infection.

 GMHC's staff who directly connect with young Black and Latinx MSM mirror House parents, providing a comforting space to work through issues, be nurtured for who they are, and be with other young people. One GMHC program, Project VOGUE! NYC, for young Black HIV-positive MSM, provides a safe and nonjudgmental journey toward viral suppression (when a person's HIV is fully suppressed, or "undetectable," he or she cannot pass on the virus through sex), with sexual health-related services, workshops, counseling, opportunities to express creativity through voguing, and other GMHC resources. HIV prevention programs include discussion groups, opportunities to participate in social marketing campaigns and educational brochures, linkage to our Testing Center, and access to PrEP and PEP.

For nearly 30 years, GMHC's annual Latex Ball, the largest gathering in the world for the House and Ball community, has played a critical role as a public health intervention while also serving as an evening of community, category competition, and friendly rivalry.

"The Latex Ball highlights the creativity, resiliency, and strength of the House and Ball community, and it also encourages members to support their community's health," said GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie. "It also provides a strong sense of community--especially for young Black and Latinx MSM. With the continued increase of hate crimes and murders of people of color and LGBT individuals, it is essential that GMHC's work persists in letting young Black and Latinx MSM know that they do matter."

Whether a chosen family is a House in the House and Ball community, or GMHC's offices as a home, we know that the care experienced by young Black and Latinx MSM from these environments can be lifesaving.

 

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About Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC)

Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is the world's first HIV/AIDS service organization. GMHC is on the front lines providing services to over 13,000 people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Programs include testing, prevention, nutrition, legal, supportive housing, mental health, and substance use services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state, and federal levels with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic. For more information, visit www.gmhc.org.