What’s an Important HIV-related Story That Should Be Noted?

This week SFGN launches “Speak OUT” a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders. This week we asked them what’s an important HIV-related story that should be noted?

Below are some of their answers:

I was brought to tears [recently] as I heard the testimonial of an African-American straight father of two small boys who was graduating from our 18-week LIFE Program for people living with HIV/AIDS. Before the program he wanted to die; he couldn’t find support; had no one [to] discuss his diagnosis with; and was filled with judgment and prejudice toward gay people. Through the relationships he made week-to-week with other participants in the program, he changed his thinking, improved his health, and embraced with tears the other men in the program. “My whole life they had taught me wrong,” he confessed. “We’re all just alike. These men are my inspiration.”

— Robert Boo, CEO of the Pride Center at Equality Park

On May 30, 2014, Republican Governor Terry Branstad signed into law (HIV Transmission Bill) an act related to the criminal transmission of contagious diseases, which focuses on HIV. The passage of this bill is a huge win for Iowa HIV “decriminalization” advocates. My opinion is it is a balanced piece of legislation supported by many in the medical field as well as AIDS organizations, including AIDS Healthcare Foundation. It paves the way for future bills to be passed in other states.

— Jason King, Advocacy and Legislative Affairs Manager in AIDS Healthcare Foundation's southern region

HIV treatment has advanced in ways unimaginable just ten years ago. Prevention efforts have also evolved to include the most well tested behavioral interventions and pre-exposure prophylaxis. Sadly despite these amazing victories, HIV/AIDS remains amongst the top ten causes of death worldwide. Locally South Florida now leads the nation in new HIV cases. As the co-chair of the Board of Directors at Care Resource, I see the impacts of HIV/AIDS profoundly in the lives of countless people in our community. Ultimately efforts must continue to focus on vaccination and cure as well as long-term treatment.

— George Castrataro, noted attorney and LGBT activist

Those of us who started the education process on HIV in the early 1980s assume that everyone is aware of safer sex practices, just as we assume every gay man has seen the original "Auntie Mame." We can't imagine how any young person could not know the basics of prevention. We're wrong.

— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist

For members of the sexually active gay community, getting tested is essential. However sometimes the fear of knowing is almost as great as the fear of not knowing. With South Florida now ranking the highest in new HIV transmissions in the country, it’s important now more than ever to get tested and get educated. New infection rates may be high but support and treatment options have never been higher or more effective. Don't be afraid to get tested and don't be afraid to start treatment.

— A.J. Alegria, President of Impulse Group — Fort Lauderdale

On May 30, 2014 Iowa Governor Branstad signed into law bi-partisan legislation that modernizes Iowa’s HIV criminal transmission statute repealing certain instances which had allowed people to be prosecuted for HIV crimes.  Prior to this in Iowa (as well as many other states), some people convicted of HIV crimes could be sentenced to lengthy prison sentences and lifetime sex offender registration even though they were accused of HIV crimes in which there was no risk of transmission of the virus.  The new law more fairly creates a tiered sentencing system that takes into consideration factors such as whether there was intent to infect another person; whether there was any significant risk of transmission; and whether transmission occurred.

Michael Gongora, former City of Miami Beach Vice Mayor

— Michael C. Gongora, former Vice Mayor of Miami Beach

Visit SFGN.com/SpeakOut to see all of this week’s responses. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you know of a LGBT community leader that you believe should be a part of this list.