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Homophobia & Public Health June 11, 2009

Posted by greeley in Healthcare, Politics.
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The results of this study should come as no surprise:

“We found the effects of tolerance for gays on HIV to be statistically significant and robust – they hold up under a range of empirical models,” says Hugo Mialon, an assistant professor of economics….”Intolerance is deadly,” Mialon said. “Bans on gay marriage codify intolerance, causing more gay people to shift to underground sexual behaviors that carry more risk.”

Obviously there are many sources of homophobia. But the government’s failure to recognize the validity of same-sex relationships has serious public health ramifications. Not nebulous effects like eroding family values – but real, tangible, and quantifiable ones. When the U.S. sanctions discrimination against gays, it makes them less likely to seek treatment for HIV. The stigma of being both gay and HIV positive is unbearable, pushing the disease farther underground.

The worst example of this deadly phenomenon isn’t marriage — it’s immigration. The U.S. — along with Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia — bans HIV-positive visitors from entering. Even China has repealed its ban. Passed during the hysteria of the early 1990s when AIDS was the “gay disease,” this relic is government-sanctioned discrimination, plain and simple. It encourages illegal immigration. It makes immigrants who do have HIV less likely to seek treatment. It impedes international cooperation to find a cure for the virus. It’s based on irrational stigma and fear. And it increases the spread of the disease. Removing the ban would send a strong signal that the US doesn’t discriminate against people with HIV, many of whom are doctors, lawyers, academics, and others who can make important contributions to progress. Being HIV positive should not be a condition for citizenship, just like being straight should not be a condition for marriage.

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