Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, with all of the United States of America following in 2015. Blair Henry, Gay Men’s HIV Prevention Worker at the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection said people assume that there are no more issues for the LGTBQ2+ community, “but really what’s happened is for the work that I do, and I’m speaking on a very personal basis here, is it makes it very difficult because there is no gathering point any more.”
He added there is still a stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. Such a stigma, that there are no signs for the organization outside of its building. “People, first of all, associate it with two populations, it’s either a gay men’s disease or an inter-venous drug user’s disease, and those are populations which a lot of society doesn’t want anything to do with still.”
Henry explained that people used to gather and rally together with HALO, a group encouraging a safe space for the community. He says with Grindr and Scruff, smartphone dating apps for gay men, there’s even less of the community feeling.
“How do you reach out to those young gay guys who are just finding out about themselves and sort of looking at their sexuality? We want to make sure that they’re armed with really good information so they can stay healthy, and stay really sexually positive. We want people to not be stigmatized at all about their sexual orientation, identification, and about HIV.”
London’s Gay Guys Book club is one group providing a community outlet. The members will read books that were either written by gay authors, have issues affecting the community, or have main characters who are gay. Henry was pleased to say the discussions are intergenerational, because the men who lived through the AIDS scare during the 1980s and 1990s will share what they dealt with.
“Now they’re passing the results of conversations through these books, these lived experiences to these younger guys.”
The Regional HIV/AIDS Connection is getting ready for the London Pride Festival in Victoria Park, which will run from July 24 to the 26.