NGLTF Commorates World AIDS Day: As Affected Communities Shift, Media Attention Wanes

December 01, 2000

14 million dead. 30 million living with HIV/AIDS. Sub-Saharan Africa already devastated by AIDS. India, Southeast Asia and China facing spiraling infection rates. Rapid increases also occurring in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean face a huge risk from HIV.

Meanwhile, as activists in a number of affected communities commemorate another World AIDS Day Friday, Dec. 1, the general-circulation media has let the pandemic fall off of its radar screen. Today in the United States, development of AIDS and HIV transmission has stabilized among white gay men overall, but is on the increase among younger gay men, and is increasing alarmingly among women, racial and ethnic minorities, heterosexuals, drug users and people over 50 years of age.

"What is both true and tragic about this pandemic is this: As HIV transmission rates increase around the world, and within the United States among certain demographic groups, the amount of media coverage about HIV/AIDS is sharply on the decline," said Elizabeth Toledo, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "The first step toward mustering the will to act is acknowledging the extent of the problem - and that is the media's responsibility. The fact that the general-circulation media has abdicated its responsibility in this area threatens the stability and future of our global community."

Toledo noted that according to a recent issue of Washington City Paper, the largest "mainstream" daily newspapers in the United States have dramatically scaled back coverage of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In 1996, for example, the Washington Post ran 258 stories about HIV/AIDS. By 1998, that number dropped by more than 50 percent, to 125 stories. Coverage in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal reflected a similar lack of interest: in the Times, the number of stories dropped 33 percent between 1996 and 1998, and in the Journal, the number of stories dropped a shocking 75 percent from 1996 to 1998.

NGLTF is working to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in part through its Racial and Economic Justice Initiative, a concrete five-year project to increase meaningful advocacy by mainstream gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) organizations on issues of racism and poverty and to support those organizations that already engage in this work. Two research collaboratives are underway through this initiative. One report will publish the results of "Black Pride Survey 2000," a comprehensive research project conducted in 9 cities that will document the policy priorities and demographic information on thousands of Black GLBT people. This survey asked respondents if health care and HIV/AIDS are among the top three most important issues facing all African Americans in the United States and if they are among the three most important issues facing GLBT African Americans in the United States. In addition the survey asked respondents what types of health insurance and benefits they have.

A second research collaborative examines the interplay of social discrimination — including homophobia, racism, and poverty — with HIV risk behaviors and suggests concrete changes in HIV/AIDS prevention strategies. This report will be distributed widely to HIV/AIDS policymakers, prevention advocates and social service providers. For more information on NGLTF's Racial and Economic Justice Initiative, click here.

"Doctor Neal Nathanson, director of the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institute of Health, has called AIDS the 'great plague of the 20th Century,’" Toledo said. "The same might be said of the 21st Century. It is time for the United States to marshal its economic strength and conquer this epidemic - both at home and abroad. Today is an appropriate day to renew our commitment and struggle."


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.