The City of West Hollywood will host a discussion forum Thursday regarding the state of HIV/AIDS in the community.
HIV Game Change 2012—The State of HIV/AIDS in West Hollywood will feature doctors, educators and others speaking about the changing culture of HIV/AIDS and what effects it will have on gay males in West Hollywood and neighboring cities.
City Councilman John D'Amico, who is living with HIV, said that the city has a responsibility to hold discussions regarding the state of HIV/AIDS considering the number of Weho residents living with the disease.
“I think it’s important for our city, which is the epicenter of HIV and AIDS in LA County, to step up and talk about a changing epidemic," D'Amico said.
Currently, 40 percent of the Weho population is gay and 25 percent of the gay population is living with HIV, meaning about 10 percent of West Hollywood residents are living with the disease.
D'Amico said Monday that a chief point of discussion for Thursday will revolve around what is true for the sex lives of gay men, those living with HIV and those that do not have the disease.
“My concerns are how those who have HIV or have had HIV for a long time, what’s true for these people," D'Amico said. “We as a community have really fought for gay marriage, but we don’t have any language around what the sex life for two men might be like if all we ever say is, ‘Use a condom.’ We can’t really expect two men who get married to use condoms their whole relationship, or do we? What do we say about that?"
“The fall back position is to always use a condom, but I think we need to hear from the experts about what’s best when protecting ourselves and how to protect others," D'Amico added. "If they’re both negative, at some point, they ought to have some language on how to stop using condoms and have an open discussion about their sex lives.”
Speaking at Thursday's forum will be Christopher Brown, Director of Health and Mental Health Services with the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Eric Gutierrez, Health Policy Director for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, and Alex Garner, Editor-At-Large, PositiveFrontiers.com, among others.
Garner has lived with HIV for the past 17 years, but when he contracted the disease, doctors gave him 10 to 15 years to live.
However, advancements in the treatment of HIV/AIDS have allowed Garner to live a healthy and fulfilling life, and Garner said that Thursday's primary focus is education about the advancements that continue to be made.
“The primary function of the forum is education and discussion," Garner said. "There have been a number of significant advances in the past couple years for people with HIV, treatment as prevention in particular.”
Thursday's forum will kick off at 7:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the West Hollywood Library, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard.