A Discriminatory Act
The Department of Health and Human Services is considering defining sex as a binary choice between male and female, fixed and immovably set by a person’s birth. Setting aside the 0.05% of the population that are born intersex and are thus indefinable in the Trump Administration’s proposed gender standard, this definition is a blatant attempt to marginalize and discriminate against the transgender community. Shortly after the memo containing this new definition was leaked to the press, thousands of people gathered at the National Cathedral to honor the life of Matthew Shepard, a young man who was killed twenty years ago for being gay. In honor of Matthew’s life, we wanted to highlight the long history of discrimination against LGBTQ and HIV communities and its impact on the mental health of those who face these challenges.
A Prejudicial History
Discrimination and fear surrounding HIV started seeping into our society the moment the virus was discovered. While the first case of AIDS in the United States was reported in 1982, the Reagan administration infamously ignored mention of the disease until 1985. That same year, Ryan White was banned from attending his middle school because of his HIV diagnosis. The isolation of HIV positive individuals from the rest of our country has fostered an environment of hate against HIV unknown in any other disease.
Hate against the HIV community often extends into our laws and governmental policies. In 1992, immigration laws preventing HIV positive individuals from entering the U.S. forced the International AIDS Conference to be moved to Amsterdam. In July of this year, the Department of Defense announced a “Deploy or get Out” strategy that may prohibit HIV positive individuals from serving in the military. These are two of many examples of the systemic and historical discrimination that has stigmatized the estimated 1.1 million Americans living with HIV, jeopardizing their mental health as well as their legal rights to treatment. Stigmatization, reported by over 50% of HIV positive individuals, may lead to harassment, poor health worker interactions, poverty, and violence, all of which marginalize the HIV community. Prejudicial acts, such as defining gender as binary, not only disregard scientific consensus but place undue and irreparable harm upon marginalized populations.
LGBTQ Mental Health
During a time when 62% of male-to-female transgender individuals are depressed, equitable access to mental health services is a public necessity. Compared to heterosexuals, there is a higher prevalence of mental health disorders in the LGBTQ population. Stress, stigma, prejudice, and discrimination are all contributing factors to this LGBTQ disparity. The effects of these high rates go beyond mental health status; mental illness is one of the leading barriers to Antiretroviral treatment adherence among the HIV positive population. In support of our clients’ health, AIDS Resource recognizes and combats the challenges of stigmatization against the LGBTQ and HIV communities.
Our mission is to provide culturally-sensitive support to people infected and affected by HIV. With Connect-to-Care services for drug and alcohol testing and social service agencies and our on-site mental health counseling and support groups, we go beyond HIV testing. By honoring those who came before us and striving for continued progress, we will never stop fighting for the health and rights of our clients.
Who Was Ryan White? (2016, October 01). Retrieved from https://hab.hrsa.gov/about-ryan-white-hivaids-program/who-was-ryan-white
History of HIV and AIDS overview. (2018, March 09). Retrieved from https://www.avert.org/professionals/history-hiv-aids/overview
Murphy, K. (n.d.). AIDS United Statement on Trump Administration Policy Banning Military Service for People Living With HIV.
Budge, S. L., Adelson, J. L., & Howard, K. A. (2013). Anxiety and depression in transgender individuals: the roles of transition status, loss, social support, and coping. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 81(3), 545.
Katz, I. T., Ryu, A. E., Onuegbu, A. G., Psaros, C., Weiser, S. D., Bangsberg, D. R., & Tsai, A. C. (2013). Impact of HIV‐related stigma on treatment adherence: systematic review and meta‐synthesis. Journal of the International AIDS Society, 16, 18640.