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Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation Could Threaten Gains Made in HIV Epidemic

New research points to a downward trend in HIV rates among young gay and bisexual men, but increasing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation could stall this progress. 

On Tuesday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report pointing to a decrease in HIV infections, largely fueled by a decrease in HIV rates among young gay and bisexual men between the ages of 13 and 24; the CDC estimates that annual infections were down 34% among this demographic. The decrease for this age group accounts for more than half of the decrease in HIV infection rates. 

Young white queer men had the greatest improvement, in terms of the decrease in HIV infections, but Black and Latine queer men are still disproportionately impacted by the disease. This points to the inequities in HIV prevention and treatment, including access to sex education, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and antiretroviral therapy for those living with HIV, that undoubtedly will worsen in this recent political climate where resources for LGBTQ+ people are under attack. 

More anti-LGBTQ+ legislation continues to arise within the United States and conservative pressure is starting to dictate what students learn within public education. Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, ushered in by Governor Ron DeSantis, has already impacted school curricula within the Sunshine State, prohibiting education surrounding gender and identity,  including LGBTQ+ education. 

An increase in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation means a decrease in education around gender, identity, and sexual health resources for LGBTQ+ students. Unfortunately, this could change the downward trend of HIV infection rates for young gay and bisexual men. Research shows that proper sexual education exponentially decreases HIV infection rates. However, if students in public schools lose access to sexual education resources, infection rates could increase, undoing the work implemented by effective public health measures. 

According to the CDC, 1.2 million people are living with HIV in this country. And 1 in 8 people aren’t aware that they have the illness and HIV status awareness is low within younger demographics, representing 15% of new infections in 2021. So much progress has been made, but it’s evident that the GOP are nowhere near aware of the massive ramifications, including for queer health, that their legislation could have. 

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