Summer is here, and along with those beach days and school breaks come gay pride festivals across the world – and we certainly have a lot to be proud of. We've accomplished so much in recent years for the rights of LGBT people: adoption and marriage equality votes keep coming in across the globe - with particular recent congratulations to Ireland!
It’s important to remind ourselves of that we’ve made such strides in so many gay political causes, and from having powerful LGBT people in our governments, militaries and schools, it seems like every television show has some sort of gay character or storyline which seems in turn to be accelerating the transgender rights movement (Welcome Caitlyn Jenner – you're stunning by the way).
So yes, it’s a grand time to be LGBT and we have our queer ancestors and allies to thank for it. But,
there are still some areas where we’re dropping the ball. Did you know these facts for instance? 1 in 3 gay men have never been tested for HIV. 1000 new infections are being reported every month in the US among 13-24 year-olds. In North American and Western Europe, just 51% of people with HIV are currently being treated.
We need a wake-up call here. We have such a great and rich history of gay people and allies who’ve fought this disease and helped bring us the treatment and prevention options we all have today – so why rates of new infections up from the 1990s? For a while there we saw new infections steadily decline each year, and here we are in 2015 with 50,000 new cases.
Earlier this year, GLAAD and The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation partnered on a media playbook launched by MSNBC, which highlighted many of these shocking statistics for the media to bring to public attention. One of the reasons they think we are seeing this rise in recent years is because my character Eddie Bear on HBO's Looking
and the role of Oliver on How To Get Away With Murder
are the only two HIV-positive characters on scripted television in years. With 1.2 million HIV-positive people in the US and close to half that amount in Europe, this is simply not enough of a television presence to tell their stories.
As an ambassador for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, I’ve learnt so much from Ms. Taylor’s tireless efforts in fighting this disease. Her legacy, along with that of many other allies and LGBT heroes, has made it possible for people to live longer, healthier and happier lives with HIV/AIDS. So now do we as a society feel like the issue is not that important? Have we unknowingly turned our backs on the cause?
I’ve been to so many red carpet events in the past year wearing my little red AIDS ribbon and have been the only person making that statement. Compare that to when Elizabeth Taylor bravely wore hers and it sparked a trend across the celebrity world. In the early ‘90s, about 10,000 ribbons had to be made for just one Oscars ceremony. What happened to that activist spirit? Is HIV/AIDS not en vogue anymore?
I think it’s high time we started talking again. Everyone needs to get tested. EVERYONE. Wearing those red ribbons might start the conversation, but we need to be proactive because the war is not over. We have the tools right now to reduce the risk of HIV infection by 96%, with newly-approved preventive measures like the PrEP drug Truvada. Originally used as part of the cocktail of drugs used to treat HIV-positive people , it has now been proven and approved to be used by everyone – along with condoms – and if used correctly can make new HIV transmissions close to impossible. There is a lot of misinformation out there and we need to get it all straight: We might not be the generation of the initial AIDS crisis but we CAN be the generation that ends HIV/AIDS..
How beautiful does that sound? It’s true. It’s possible. The time has come. Don't wait for it to become such a crisis that it becomes trendy again. This Pride, lets honour all the heroes who have fought in our name to eradicate HIV/AIDS by getting tested and starting this conversation all over again.
Look at how far we've come. We can’t stop now.
Words by DANIEL FRANZESE
– Daniel Franzese is an actor of stage and screen best known for his performances in films like Mean Girls and for ordering pizza at 11pm. Online, his viral videos Please Go Home and Sh*t Italian Moms Say have reached millions of viewers worldwide. Follow him @Whatsupdanny on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr and on YouTube.com/MyMyMyTube. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California where he starred as #EDDIEBEAR on HBO’s LOOKING.