Gay Men’s Share of Cleveland’s $3.3 Million in AIDS Funds Too Small, Critics Say
Greater Cleveland received approximately $3.3 million in public and private grants last year to combat the spread of HIV, yet only 12% of the funding was awarded to programs serving gay men, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Seventy percent of the men living with HIV/AIDS in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, became infected with the virus via sex with other men, according to the Ohio Department of Health. AIDS workers call this disproportion "dangerous," saying national surveys show that infections among gay men are increasing. Robert Bucklew, health outreach coordinator for the Lesbian/Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland, said that the "stigma of homosexuality" affects public policy decisions. But City Council member Merle Gordon, chair of Cleveland's Public Health Committee, explained that the committee decided to focus grants on women, IV drug users, youths and minorities because consultants reported that infection rates were rising the fastest among these groups. Forty-six percent of the AIDS cases reported across the country in 1999 were among men who have sex with men, but only 28% of prevention money went to groups serving the gay population, a 2000 study published in Science found. Dr. Stephan Morin, study author and University of California-San Francisco professor, said that the public is not willing to spend money on homosexuals due to "the misperception that HIV is spreading more rapidly in the heterosexual population than in the gay population. The statistics do not bear this out" (McEnery, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/11).
Gay Black Men Fear Greater Stigma
Many gay black men fear ostracism from the African-American community if they reveal their sexual orientation, and such "struggles ... are gaining attention" both statewide and nationwide, as a national CDC study found one in three gay black men were living with HIV/AIDS. In Ohio, 60% of HIV-positive black men contracted the virus through sexual contact with other men, according to health department statistics, and AIDS groups say that more attention and funding should be appropriated to programs serving gay minorities, the Plain Dealer reports. Robert Burns, a prevention coordinator with the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, said, "[I]n the African-American community, it is very hard to talk about being gay. ... [W]hat I have seen amongst my gay friends is they get ostracized or they get kicked out or people tell them they are going to die of AIDS" (McEnery, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/11).