A little while back someone in the office pointed out this interesting piece about the rise of AIDS among young men in NYC. I started wondering what could be done and I took my query to Mary Ann Cohen a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and the co-editor of the Comprehensive Textbook of AIDS Psychiatry. Cohen wrote me back with the following illuminating response.
During a century when rapid advances in medicine led to near eradication of infectious diseases throughout much of the world, the emergence of HIV infection in 1981 led to an unexpected crisis in health care that has not yet resolved. Despite advances in the care of persons with HIV and AIDS, the pandemic still continues to grow. The increase in HIV infections in New York City that has been documented in the past five years in young gay men is of grave concern. Re-empowering gay young men and using young persons as educators will help to reverse this alarming trend while fear, blame, stigmatization, discrimination, and judgmental attitudes will only perpetuate HIV transmission by driving the pandemic underground and discouraging individuals from going for HIV counseling and testing. Adolescence and early adulthood are complex times of turmoil and change. Using adolescents as role models, working with young actors, actresses, singers, and sports stars may help to set a new tone. Identifying interested and enthusiastic young high school students, college students, and medical students who can provide workshops in schools and other venues where young people gather can help to provide role models with whom adolescents can identify and from whom they may be more open to learning about how to prevent HIV transmission. There is no simple solution for this complex problem. It is important to understand that the upsurge in HIV transmission is multi-factorial and has biological, psychological, social, and cultural components. Comparing, stigmatizing, and blaming can only serve to perpetuate the epidemic while understanding, educating, and empowering young people to teach each other healthier and safer modes of sexual gratification can decrease transmission of HIV and AIDS and help to resolve this health care crisis.
On the subject of avoiding a culture of fear:
Thanks for bringing this pressing (and very relevant) issue to your readers’ attention.
recently I saw an quick ad on mtv about gay men and getting tested (disco music and colored dancing kind of like the old ipod commercials) – another ad on a different network shows people holding red roses, and meeting people in a square, exchanging the roses…then they all throw them on the ground and run from each other (the ad stated at the end “love is fleeting, knowledge is forever: get tested”) – it’s interesting how the media is going about getting the message across and doing it so it as seen as empowering to take charge of one’s sexual health, and not scary as some old ads have been.
[…] Earlier today Mary Ann Cohen, co-editor of the Comprehensive Textbook of AIDS Psychiatry helped us better understand the AIDS epidemic in young American men. Cohen’s book (with Jack M. Gorman), navigates the ample evidence supporting the fact that psychiatric treatment can decrease transmission, diminish suffering, improve adherence, and decrease morbidity and mortality. In the excerpt below, Jimmie Holland, MD the Wayne E. Chapman Chair in Psychiatric Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a Professor of Psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University provides a forward which puts the Comprehensive Textbook of AIDS Psychiatry into historical perspective. […]
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