NAF Observes National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

WASHINGTON, D.C.  - September 27, 2010 - On the second annual National Gay Men's  HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the National AIDS Fund (NAF) remembers the thousands of gay men who have lost their lives to the disease, and honors those currently living with HIV.  NAF has long been committed to helping men who have sex with men (MSM) - both living with, and at risk for, HIV/AIDS - prevent the spread of the disease, and access the life-saving care they need if they are living with disease.

The goals of National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day are to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among gay men; encourage HIV testing, early diagnosis and linkage to care; promote better understanding of the complex factors that drive HIV transmission among gay men; and obtain broad based support to acquire needed public and private resources and sound governmental policies to prevent new infections among gay men and to provide treatment for gay men living with HIV/AIDS.

According to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , approximately one in five (19 percent) MSM in a study of 21 major U.S. cities is infected with HIV, and nearly half (44 percent) of those men are unaware of their infection.   In July, 2010, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, released by the Obama Administration and the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), stated that the "United States cannot reduce the number of HIV infections nationally without better addressing HIV among gay and bisexual men."

"Since the NAF's inception in 1988, we have supported hundreds of community-driven programs that are reaching thousands of MSM with critical HIV prevention messages, and that are helping them access quality, life-sustaining, HIV-focused medical care," said National AIDS Fund President and CEO Kandy Ferree. "With HIV/AIDS affecting a new generation of gay men we must redouble our efforts to ensure that we are reaching gay men of all generations and colors with messages that promote prevention and better health outcomes."

Ferree said that this year's National Gay Men HIV/AIDS Awareness day falls at an especially troubling time for gay men and the HIV epidemic.

"Gay and bisexual men of all races is the only group in the United States where the estimated number of new HIV infections is rising annually," said Ferree. "These sobering CDC statistics serve as reinforcement of the importance of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and need to direct resources to the most impacted populations."

According to Ferree, NAF's commitment to the successful implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which includes addressing HIV/AIDS in gay men as well as addressing barriers to accessing HIV care that gay men living with HIV/AIDS may experience, is reflected in several of its grantmaking initiatives, including its expanding Access to Care initiative.   Positive Charge, NAF's Access to Care collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb, includes programs focused on getting MSM living with HIV/AIDS into HIV-specific care, as exampled by Chicago's efforts to reach Latino and African American MSM, who continue to be disproportionately affected by the disease.   The unique Chicago partnership of community-based organizations builds on existing testing, case management, and medical services to assist HIV-positive men of color at risk of delayed or interrupted access to care by offering clients evidence-based individual and group interventions to build clients' resiliency, knowledge, and self-efficacy skills necessary to sustaining access to care.

In addition to current programs, NAF has also encouraged programs targeting disproportionately affected communities, including gay men, in its recently-released request for proposal for community-driven Access to Care activities funded with support from the Social Innovation Fund.

"NAF remains at the forefront of innovative community responses to the HIV epidemic," said Ferree. "Our rapidly growing Access to Care initiative gives us the opportunity to tackle barriers to HIV care on a scale that has never been done before, which means our most impacted populations, including gay men, will be linked to the life-saving care and services they need."