Martin Luther King Jr Day, 2021

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr, we share excerpts from “The American Dream” speech given at Drew University in February, 1964. 

In developing this blog, we reflected on the past year of civil rights protests, the groundswell of interconnected social justice movements, and the momentous Black Lives Matter movement.  We reflected on the approaching inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States and the violent terroristic response that saw our nation’s capital gripped by violence. 

We reread many works by Dr. King in considering what to share today.  Finally, excerpts from this speech seemed to carry messages that resonate with today’s struggles to fulfill the American Dream. We encourage you to read the entire speech online at the Drew University archives The American Dream

I would like to use as a subject from which to speak tonight, the American Dream. And I use this subject because America is essentially a dream, a dream yet unfulfilled. The substance of the dream is expressed in some very familiar words found in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is a dream.

Now one of the first things we notice about this dream is an amazing universalism. It does not say some men, it says all men. It does not say all white men, but it says all men which includes black men. It doesn’t say all Protestants, but it says all men which includes Catholics. It doesn’t say all Gentiles, it says all men which includes Jews. And that is something else at the center of the American Dream which is one of the distinguishing points, one of the things that distinguishes it from other forms of government, particularly totalitarian systems. It says that each individual has certain basic rights that are neither derived from nor conferred by the state. They are gifts from the hands of the Almighty God. Very seldom if ever in the history of the world has a socio-political document expressed in such profound eloquent and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth of human personality.

28 Aug 1963, Washington, DC, USA — Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. waves to participants in the Civil Rights Movement’s March on Washington from the Lincoln Memorial. It was from this spot that he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

But ever since the Founding Fathers of our nation dreamed this dream, America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself. On the one hand we have proudly professed the great principles of democracy. On the other hand we have sadly practiced the very antithesis of those principles. Indeed, slavery and racial segregation are strange paradoxes in the nation founded on the principle that all men are created equal.

But now, more than ever before, our nation is challenged to realize this dream. For the shape of the world today does not afford us the luxury of an anemic democracy, and the price that America must pay for the continued oppression of the Negro and other minority groups is the price of its own destruction. The hour is late and the clock of destiny is ticking out, and we must act now before it is too late.

We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. This is the challenge of the hour. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone.

Somehow we are interdependent.

2020 Texas HIV/STD Conference

Due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Texas HIV/STD Conference will be virtual. The conference will still deliver the same quality you’ve come to love and expect, but now in the form of a FREE virtual experience. We hope the virtual event will expand the conference’s reach and provide the opportunity for all HIV/STD health professionals throughout Texas to attend. 

The purpose of the Texas HIV/STD Conference is to educate and inform HIV/STD health professionals who serve Texans living with and affected by HIV and other STDs. The conference typically draws 800 to 1,000 HIV/STD health professionals from throughout Texas.

Topics include:

  • National and State Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiatives
  • Treatment as Prevention (TasP)
  • Effective Messaging to Reduce Stigma
  • Test and Treat
  • Status Neutral Prevention and Treatment Cycle
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) 
  • Ending STDs and Viral Hepatitis in Texas
  • Health Equity/Community Mobilization
  • Focus on Affected Communities
  • Sexual Health
  • Trauma-Informed Care
  • STD Prevention and Clinical Care
  • Hepatitis C Prevention, Testing and Treatment

You won’t want to miss out! Register for free at: 2020 Texas HIV/STD Conference Registration

national gay mens hiv/aids awareness day – sept. 27, 2020

September 27th is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  HIV in the United States continues to disproportionately affect gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.  In 2018, nearly 25,000 gay, bisexual of other MSM were diagnosed with HIV.  In Texas, 70% of newly diagnosed people living with HIV in 2018 were gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.  The number of new diagnoses for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men has not changed significantly in more than a decade in Texas.

To achieve our goal and end the HIV epidemic in Texas, more must be done to stop the continued transmission of HIV among gay men, while also recognizing the real lived experience of those men.  Strategies must continue to be developed to empower gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men to live full and complete lives while reducing the chance of acquiring HIV. 

A key strategy to ending the HIV epidemic in Texas and among gay/bi/MSM is wider use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).  Taken daily, PrEP prevents sexually active HIV negative men from contracting HIV if they are exposed.  While PrEP use continues to increase each year, according to AIDSVU, only roughly 14,000 people in Texas were utilizing PrEP in 2018.  Wider and easier access to PrEP will increase use, but we must also address the stigma and sexual shaming that exists in communities, and among gay/bi/MSM men in order to fully realize the benefits of PrEP. 

For more information visit the CDC’s page highlighting HIV among gay/bisexual and other men who have sex with men

Southern HIV/AIDS AWareness DAy

This week’s blog was written by the Southern AIDS Coalition in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. We are excited to have had the opportunity to partner with SAC to raise awareness of the impact of HIV in the South.

Southern states are suffering from an HIV epidemic. Data on HIV shows that 45% of people living with HIV, and 52% of all new HIV diagnoses are found in the South (AIDS Vu). In 2019, the Trump Administration announced the plan End the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America. This plan focused on increasing resources for testing, treatment, and prevention to decrease new HIV infections by 90% by 2030. The Plan focused on 58 priority jurisdictions that suffer higher rates of HIV in the country. Located in the South, the majority of these jurisdictions include 7 Southern states. In the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we also encounter many health disparities when talking about diagnosis, treatment, and access to healthcare. HIV disproportionately affects African American men and brings out systemic issues that lead to these disparities. The fight to end the epidemic cannot only focus on HIV/AIDS, but all the other factors that impede people to gain access to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. It is important to bring attention to the South because the epidemic looks much different in Southern states that often were overlooked by large metropolitan areas. There are many factors in the South that affect the HIV epidemic, such as lack of healthcare, vast rural areas, lack of health insurance, transportation issues, stigma, and many other factors.

The Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (SHAAD) was launched on August 20th, 2019 by the Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC). The purpose of SHAAD is to bring awareness to the HIV epidemic in the South and amplify efforts to combat it. During SHAAD 2019, multiple organizations, health departments, and businesses fighting to end the epidemic gathered to talk about the efforts being done on the ground and sharing success stories. Additionally, SHAAD ensures to bring an array of intersectional topics that affect people living with HIV in the South and systemic issues that affect the treatment and prevention of HIV. This year the Southern AIDS Coalition will be hosting SHAAD virtually. The theme of this year’s event is Pursuing the Possible, Doing the Work. Although SHAAD is taking a virtual approach this year, it will still be an impactful event, where organizations can come together and highlight the efforts done to end the HIV epidemic in the South. SHAAD 2020 will take place during August 20th and the 21st, highlighting five different panels. These panels will be on various topics such as: amplifying Southern voices, a conversation with Gilead COMPASS Initiative, EHE in the South from a federal perspective, and finally, addressing healthcare, housing, and hunger.

Having the Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is extremely important. For many years HIV treatment and prevention have been focused on large metropolitan areas, therefore overlooking rural areas and the majority of the South. In consequence, there was a lack of funding and resource allocation to the South, which ties to the many disparities that we see in HIV today. By bringing awareness to the HIV epidemic in the South, we can gather the voices of people doing work locally and see what is working and what is not. There are unique challenges in the South that make the work in HIV harder. For example, the lack of Medicaid expansion. For many, the only way to get HIV treatment is through Medicaid. However, many people living with HIV are uninsured, which is why Medicaid expansion is so important. The vast rural areas that make up the Southern states also have an impact on access to healthcare. Obtaining care in rural areas is a challenge, and an additional barrier when it comes to finding a physician that works with HIV treatment and prevention. At SHAAD, we not only look at the problems and challenges, but we focus on finding solutions through our strengths. The work that is being done in the South to fight against HIV/AIDS is impressive. We have many strong advocates in the South doing fantastic work. Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is essential for bringing all these incredible Southern leaders and advocates to highlight and celebrate the work done in the South around HIV and AIDS.  At SAC, we hope that we can continue SHAAD for many years to come because creating partnerships and coming together to share our stories and voices is how we create change.

The continued epidemic of methamphetamine among gay/bi/msm

Methamphetamine is not a new drug, it was developed in 1919 in Japan and was widely used by all sides in World War II.  Later, the drug was prescribed for weight loss and as treatment for depression.  It wasn’t until 1970 that the US government made methamphetamine illegal which lead to the underground production and sale of the drug. In the 1990s, drug cartels began large scale manufacturing of methamphetamine while smaller labs in homes and vehicles began producing meth in rural cities across the country.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s meth became the most widely used drug among urban gay men and spread throughout gay culture.  Methamphetamine use among gay/bi and other MSM has been shown to be 20 times that of the general population (Oldenburg, Et Al, 2016) and it’s use has not decreased over the decades (Mimiaga, Et Al 2019). 

Meth is used by gay/bi/msm to party, promote confidence, and enhance sexual experiences.  Many gay men report that “chemsex” is far more enjoyable and that after experience sex while using meth, regular sex is less enjoyable. 

For people living with HIV, using methamphetamine can have disastrous consequences.  Meth users who are living with HIV tend to have higher viral loads and are at risk of not being in treatment.  Meth may also effect a person’s immune system which makes it easier for HIV to replicate.

In the early 2000s, there were large campaigns focused on raising awareness of and combating meth use among gay/bi/MSM across the country.  These efforts have largely faded away but the prevalence of methamphetamine use has remained a part of our community.

To learn more about methamphetamine use among gay/bi/MSM, particularly among Latinx gay/bi/MSM, register for our future webinar “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” an Achieving Together Conversation sponsored by the Texas HIV Syndicate and presented by Poderosos.