Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A Queer Perspective on the COVID-19 Vaccine

As someone who is gay, I’m part of a marginalized community that has needed to protest, participate in civil disobedience, and continually advocate to live. In the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was in full force. Because HIV/AIDS predominantly impacted gay men, which most people in power didn’t care about at the time, governments paid little attention as they saw it as a “gay disease.” Some in power even saw it as some sort of punishment from God.

We know today that HIV/AIDS is a disease that impacts all people though it still disproportionately impacts marginalized people.

I have gay friends who lived through the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which they called “the plague.” They called it that because they lost countless friends. Many also lost partners. People can only take so much before they start taking action.

Silence = Death. A sign used by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fleshmanpix/7650195616/

The drug AZT, a potential cancer therapy drug from the 1960s, showed promise in treating HIV. It was one of the first treatments for HIV. People needed to protest and participate in civil disobedience to get governments and pharmaceutical companies to study the drug and let people participate in potentially life-saving treatment.

Fighting for access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment isn’t a thing of the past. It wasn’t until 2018 that the Government of BC provided free, expanded access to PrEP. This drug is a highly effective treatment to prevent HIV infections, which scientists first proved effective in 2010. Access to this drug is still limited in most of the world.

So what does this have to do with getting a COVID-19 vaccine? I’ve heard the stories of “the plague,” I know people who can manage HIV successfully with medication, and I know people who are on PrEP.

The right to getting treatments and preventative drugs for HIV was hard-fought. When the COVID-19 vaccine became available, I wanted to get it right away. Why would I turn down a life saving vaccine that helps reduce the likelihood of getting and spreading a deadly virus?

As part of a community devastated by a virus in the past, I want to do what I can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and my likelihood of getting ill today.

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