|On the Affirmation Website|
February 8, 2014
May 2-4, 2014
by Robert Moore
Today (December 1st) is the 25th World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. It is also a day to honor the more than 25 million lives we have lost to AIDS since the first cases were reported in 1981. The HIV epidemic not only affects the health of individuals: it impacts households, communities, and the development and economic growth of nations. Despite these challenges, there have been successes and promising signs. New global efforts have been mounted to address the epidemic, particularly in the last decade. Prevention has helped reduce HIV rates in a small but growing number of countries and new HIV infections are believed to be on the decline.
We now have good drugs that work to help to extend the length and quality of life for those living with HIV/AIDS. These drugs are NOT a cure but a band aid. Fortunately, due to the work of people and organizations such as Act Up, who fought for medications and services, we now have programs to help people get better access to treatment, food, housing, and more. Unfortunately, now that we are 30 years into this pandemic, many have forgotten the days when people were dying left and right; consequently, funding for these services are drying up and service organizations are being forced to close or minimize their services. People who see this happening are sometimes stepping forward to volunteer and support these organizations.
I grew up in the LDS Church in a very conservative multi-generational Mormon family. I was taught all forms of birth control were wrong and sinful–a lesson that we received in the Young Men’s and Young Women’s program. When I was 16, my grandmother found some condoms that I think I got for a sex ed class in high school. Although I was not sexually active, my grandmother freaked out and threw them away. She said that if I was old enough to have sex, I was old enough to deal with the consequences. While it was 1996 and we were well into the AIDS epidemic, I truly believe that in her mind she was only thinking about pregnancy. I think this happens way too often in Mormon culture. Consequently, young people who come out as gay and leave home go into the world without the education they badly need.
I tested HIV positive on March 1, 2012 after being raped in late 2011. A few months after testing positive, I started working at an organization here in San Francisco that helps people living with HIV/AIDS to find better housing or keep their current housing. The program helps pay some of their rent or pays back rent they may owe. Through this work, I met people on a daily basis who were living with HIV/AIDS. Some had been living with it for decades, years, months, and even just weeks. When meeting with them, I would almost always share my story, which includes being raised Mormon. Way more than I would have ever guessed they would say, “I was raided LDS as well.” I averaged about 1 person a month disclosing to me that they had an LDS background. This is a very high rate of being Mormon, LGBT & HIV positive.
I would love to see a movement within the LDS LGBT & Allied community to educate ourselves, our community, our church and our young people about HIV/AIDS transmission, treatment, and the stigma that so many living with HIV/AIDS experience. I encourage everyone to attend their local World AIDS Day event, do research about HIV/AIDS, and visit and/or volunteer at a local organization that serves people living with HIV/AIDS.