On June 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into lawthat prohibits the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. If you are unclear as to what “non-traditional sexual relations” are, look no further than the explanation from the Russian government itself: “relations not conducive to procreation.” Basically, Russia is now forbidding the gay community from promoting LGBT equality and justice — as if they were so lenient in their policy before.

Rightfully, many gay activists around the world — Americans largely included — jumped at criticizing the bill, urging countries to dissuade the Russian government from supporting the homophobic legislature.

Though the Russian law is disconcerting, the American public is being hypocritical by calling to overturn the law when a similar U.S. amendment has largely been in practice since 1988.

In the 1980s, the United States finally decided to take some action after years of non-response by providing federal funding for AIDS awareness. Before the 1988 fiscal appropriations bill for the Department of Labor, Health, Human Services and the Department of Education was officially passed, Senator Jesse Helms (R–N.C.) proposed an amendment that would prohibit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from funding AIDS programs that “promote, encourage or condone homosexual activities.”

Since the early cases in Los Angeles in the 1980s, AIDS has disproportionately affected gay men in the United States. In a recent report the CDC determined that men who have sex with men — or MSM — accounted for 79 percent of all the estimated HIV diagnoses among men 13 years of age and older. In statistics that include both sexes, MSM accounted for 62 percent of all diagnoses in 2011.

In 1987, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis organization published a pamphlet called “After The Gym” in an attempt to counter the rapidly spreading disease. GMHC carefully segregated their finances to make sure government funding was not spent on activities that might be deemed controversial like the”After the Gym” publication, which could be deemed “pro-homosexual.”

That October, Sen. Helms marched into the Oval Office, pamphlet in hand, telling President Ronald Reagan that the GMHC had received $600,000 in public funding to publish disturbing pamphlets that advanced a “homosexual agenda.” Helms then quickly drafted his anti-gay amendment. This efficiently disabled the public from learning about the potential risks associated with anal sex or similar sexual activities. Local, state and federal agencies were afraid to publish any information that could be deemed as homoerotic.

At a crucial time when stigma ran rampant, the U.S. government could’ve stepped in and educated the American gay community about the dangers of unprotected sex and the ways HIV/AIDS is transmitted. Instead, they failed their citizens and specifically prohibited the federal government from teaching its people about a vulnerable population.

The Helms amendment seemingly fell out of practice with the CDC funding some education in the gay community. However, even today only 10 percent of CDC funds are allocated to specific HIV/AIDS risk groups, with just 33 percent of that funding MSM educational material (Let me remind you, MSM accounts for nearly 62 percent of all diagnoses). The allotment of federal financial support for AIDS awareness targeted at gay males is unreasonably small at 3.3 percent.

Educating the public on prevention and testing is the only way to inhibit HIV/AIDS. But how can the U.S. government achieve this when there’s limited financial support available for educating the most affected group?

The government need to increase their attention to AIDS awareness and funding. Though infection rates have drastically declined since the end of 20th century, HIV/AIDS is still an epidemic killing thousands every year. It deserves the government commitment for prevention and treatment.

Aarica Marsh is an LSA junior.

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