According to Dr. Ron Stall, director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, the dearth of investment in sexual health research, especially for the LGBT community, is something of an American tradition. Primarily due to the hot-button nature of conversations about sexuality and sexual practices, “the US has been slow to invest in sexual health in general.”
This additional roadblock makes the advances that have been made in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV all the more impressive. According to Stall, thanks to breakthrough drug research, HIV “has now become a chronic manageable disease much like diabetes,” for those who are aware of their illness and have access to drugs.
“When historians write about this epidemic, they’ll be impressed.” Stall says. Still, members of the LGBT community are disproportionately affected by the disease and the complications that come with it. According to Dr. Stall, the center for LGBT health research seeks to go deeper than treatment, and is focused on understanding why the health disparities exist. Stall notes that mental health, substance abuse issues, and the health of the individuals relationships all have a serious impact on the risk of contracting HIV. And determining how these issues factor in can help prevent transmission of the disease going forward. One of the biggest challenges facing the center is, as it has always been, chronic under-funding. “There’s no question that the funding is not commensurate with the proportion of Americans that are LGBT.” Stall states. “There needs to be a structural change in how this work is funded.”