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A lot of things have changed for LGBT community since I publicly came out in June 1990. Most of these changes are for the better. As a country, we have a way to go in terms of achieving full equality for gays, lesbians and transgender citizens, but huge strides have been made in terms of fighting discrimination and gaining acceptance. Homophobia is still a major problem in the United States and in major league baseball. Just look at how many professional baseball players are out -- none! However, as I travel the country giving talks at corporations, universities, and conferences, I see that LGBT people are living freer, more open lives than ever before.
Unfortunately, some of the most important things have not changed at all. Gay and bisexual men are still severely impacted by HIV and AIDS. Almost half of the people with HIV/AIDS in the United States are gay or bisexual men. More important, the number of HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men rises every year. Gay and bisexual men are the only demographic where this is happening.
That's why, in observance of Gay Men's HIV Awareness Day, I'm writing in order to raise awareness of this issue. There are a lot of reasons why gay men are more affected by HIV/AIDS than any other demographic. A lot of guys are unaware of their HIV status, so they transmit the disease without knowing it. Some of the younger generation think that HIV is a "manageable" disease.
Also, homophobia and stigma prevent people from getting access to HIV prevention services. As someone who had a career in professional baseball, I understand how hard it is to face discrimination in both your workplace and your community. We can't let these challenges stop us from living healthy and full lives. So we need to get the word out, take action to protect ourselves and our partners, and reach out to our gay brothers to let them know we care.
What can you do to help out?
- If you're unsure of your HIV status, get tested (to find nearby testing locations, visit www.HIVtest.org). Also, encourage your friends to get tested
- Talk with your friends about HIV; share your own experiences and stories by posting on our Facebook page
- Update your Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter site with an Awareness Day message
- Learn more about HIV/AIDS at the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the CDC
- Visit our Facebook page for information and insights from Perez Hilton, Kenneth Cole, former NBA player John Amaechi, Noah's Arc cast member Doug Spearman, and more
As an umpire I used to say, "I'm not always right, but I'm never wrong!" Well, I am not wrong about this! Get tested! Know your status! Step up to the "plate" and do the right thing for you, your partner and your community.