March 17, 2014

Michael Gerson’s March 14 op-ed column, “Africa makes the AIDS crisis worse,” revealed a hidden and insidious effect that Africa’s anti-gay laws are having on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. Tragically, however, the same analysis could apply to the HIV/AIDS health crisis in the District.

Washington continues to have among the highest HIV infection rates in the nation. Although the mayor’s office reported last fall that new HIV diagnoses dropped by nearly half between 2007 and 2011, the number of newly diagnosed poor African American women nearly doubled within two years, which some analysts suggest is the result of sexual relations with men who have sex with other men without informing their female partners.

Legislation in several states that would allow businesses to deny service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers would continue to stigmatize these people and exacerbate the pattern that Mr. Gerson observed in Africa, pushing men away from HIV testing and prevention counseling.

Theo Milonopoulos, New York