Ensuring All Are a Part of the Conversation – NASTAD Recognizes National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Andrew Zapfel September 27, 2019

As an adolescent, I never saw sexual health education that truly met the needs of gay and bisexual men. Much of the focus was on abstinence-only education and not topics such as healthy relationships; understanding HIV and STI prevention tools; or how to ensure we create spaces where all feel welcome, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. When I started working in adolescent sexual health in Buffalo, New York in 2010, I made it my mission to help create safer spaces where everyone could feel welcomed and learn about what they needed to stay healthy. Now, as a manager for Health Equity at NASTAD, I feel honored to be able to work across the United States ensuring we create safer spaces for all to learn, be engaged, and be empowered with tools to effectively respond to the HIV and viral hepatitis epidemics.

Today, September 27, marks the 11th annual National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. With the energized push to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, the focus needs to be on prioritizing the populations that are still underserved in the response. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBM) are disproportionally affected by HIV. Despite ongoing efforts, transmission rates are either stable or increasing in GBM of color. Now, more than ever, comprehensive community engagement needs to be a part of all programming, from developing Ending the HIV Epidemic plans to individual programming at the clinic level.  

Part of our work at NASTAD is ensuring that health departments have the tools and resources to respond to HIV and viral hepatitis effectively. On National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we would like to showcase several NASTAD resources available to support ending stigma and discrimination toward GBM living with HIV.

  • NASTAD developed a brief to showcase the value of promoting health education specific to the needs of GBM on health department websites with examples from several different jurisdictions.
  • The Gay Men’s Health Equity Work Group (GMHE) is a forum for health departments to discuss current programming successes and challenges for GBM. Those interested in being a part of the conversation can reach out to me
  • NASTAD will soon be releasing its first GMHE quarterly newsletter. The newsletter will shares resources, tools, and health department events for GBM. To sign up to receive the newsletter, please contact Maegan Samuel.
  • A recent NASTAD webinar was held focused on hepatitis A and B vaccination recommendations, resources and outreach materials developed by CDC, as well as a state’s response to a hepatitis A outbreak in their GBM community.   

To end the HIV epidemic among GBM, conversations about HIV stigma must be at the forefront of this work. Only through continued oversight, leadership by health departments in combatting stigma and discrimination, and meaningful partnerships with the community, will we see the real end to the HIV epidemic. NASTAD remains committed to supporting health departments in their response and ensuring all feel welcomed to take part.