BY HANA KAJIMURA
Today is the International Day Against Homophobia. Just 21 years ago today, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illness.
Today reminds parents to tell their children, regardless of their sexual orientation, that they love them. Today, teachers and employers work to create safe and open spaces for students and employees, and media outlets are encouraged to extend their coverage of LGBTQ issues. Today is also a day to remember all the lives destroyed by prejudices and lost to the diseases that fuel them.
In 2007, HIV/AIDS was the fourth leading cause of death for men aged 25-54 years in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Is AIDS still a gay disease? No. AIDS affects everyone. HIV/AIDS affects men and women, gay and straight, San Franciscans and Africans, drug users and athletes, adults and children. But HIV/AIDS still disproportionately ravages gay communities, especially in California, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area.
75.7% of all HIV/AIDS cases occur among gay men in California. Nationally, this same statistic is 53%. Nearly three quarters of the 15,836 San Franciscans living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2009, were men who have sex with men (MSM).
I recently had a conversation with a Stanford student who is both active in the LGBTQ community and runs the anonymous peer HIV testing service on campus. He said that overlaps in terms of issues and activists between the two communities are rare. This lack of communication further perpetuates the mindset that HIV is something located entirely apart from the “Stanford bubble.” So we further perpetuate the hurtful stigma that swirls around both communities.
Today is a day that reminds us to be respectfully aware of our differences— because those differences do exist no matter what “bubble” we live under. In order to support our peers, we must face their fights as our own. In order to tear down stigma, we must first know the facts. Today, on the Day Against Homophobia, start a conversation to end misinformation.