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7 Institutions of HIV Infection

7 Institutions of HIV Infection


The spread of HIV is bigger than two people having sex or sharing needles.

On a micro level, HIV is spread from one person to another via sexual intercourse, childbirth, or the sharing of needles. But on a macro level, HIV infection is perpetuated by the teachings, policies, and beliefs of a few institutions that have a sweeping impact on the viewpoints and actions of others. In the beginning of the HIV epidemic, a lack of knowledge and understanding of the disease were to blame. Today, the misplaced morals and judgmental policies keep the disease alive and place everyone at risk of HIV.

These are the institutions of HIV infection.

Abstinence-90675633_0Abstinence-Only Educational Programming

Evidence proved that abstinence-based sex education does not prevent HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Many conservative public institutions focus on abstinence as the sole method for safe sex because of its ties to religion. Furthermore, teaching abstinence until marriage is often exclusionary and discriminatory toward LGBT youth, the most at-risk population for HIV, in regions where same-sex marriage is illegal. These young people are left without an education on how to negotiate safer sex practices because, under abstinence-based programming, any sex that an LGBT person may have is considered wrong and/or unhealthy.

Criminalization-177428735_0HIV Criminalization Laws

When HIV was an almost certain death sentence, laws where enacted to reflect the severity of infection to deter people from spreading the disease. Thirty years later, HIV is now a chronic and manageable diagnosis, but people living with HIV are still commonly treated as criminals. Regrettably, the criminalization of HIV has led to many HIV-positive people being unjustly prosecuted, regardless of the actual risk of transmission, because their status is seen as an inherent sign of guilt. Although it may be morally preferable for an HIV-positive person to disclose their status before intimate sexual contact, it is the responsibility of both parties to take proper precautions to prevent STI transmissions and to inquire about each other's HIV status. Placing the sole burden of disclosure one one person with criminal consequences can and has discouraged people from getting tested and accessing care.

Socialconservative-78818154_0Socially Conservative Public Officials

From the early days of President Ronald Reagan's administration to the recent efforts of Texas State Rep. Stuart Spitzer, conservative politicians have been thwarting the efforts of HIV prevention for the past three decades. Instead of serving the best interests of all of their constituents, many politicians have often been more interested in appealing to the moral musings of their voting base. Defunding HIV prevention programs, limiting health care options, and failing to publicly recognize increasing infection rates are just a few ways in which socially conservative public officials have aided in the spread of HIV.

Fearbased-152938103_0Fear-Based Safe Sex Campaigns

With proper education, there is no need for fear. But many HIV service organizations still rely on scare tactics to deter people from engaging in risky behavior. This leads people to be afraid of something resembling HIV but perfectly fine with other healthy sexual images. Unfortunately, HIV infection can come in the form of the hottest body, be hidden behind the most handsome face, or be from the most refined background. Besides stigmatizing the many people who are otherwise living healthy, happy lives with HIV, these fear-based campaigns do little to prevent the spread of the disease.

Shamingservice-55846609x633_0Sex-Shaming Service Providers

Whether it is an entire organization or an individual doctor, many health care providers have become out-of-touch with the generation that is most at risk. From lifestyle judgment to PrEP-shaming, some doctors have taken a conservative approach to care and have left some of their patients at risk because of it. LGBT people in urban areas can avoid these providers and find a doctor suitable to their needs. But for people who live in more conservative, rural areas, options are limited and the chance of being denied the services and proper care they may need is great.

Religious-176798272_0Antigay Religious Institutions

An LGBT child who is forced to grow up in an antigay church will most likely be uneducated about how to protect themselves from STIs during same-sex intercourse and in danger of engaging in destructive behavior because of a divergent self-image, sexual frustration, and self-hate. In the United States, many conservative Christian churches believe that an LGBT person is already in the wrong for engaging in any kind of sexual activity, so the consequences of those activities are simply to be expected. This institutional belief has put many LGBT young people at risk for infection and without any medical or emotional support if they do become HIV-positive.


The institution of idealism is possibly the greatest cause for continued HIV infection. Whether you think that young gay boys should just no better, people should always wear condoms or everyone should get tested and do the right think, human nature has always and will always allow for human error. Idealism results in shame, misplaced arrogance and obstructive thinking. When it comes to HIV, a realistic point of view toward problem-solving, based on what people's behaviors are instead of what they should be, is the best and only way to reduce infections and eradicate stigma.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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