Nash Grier is a sixteen-year-old who has attracted over 300,000 followers on Vine, a mobile app that lets you capture and share six-second videos. While he is most popularly known for the humor of his short clips, he has gained negative media attention because of a recent video post, in which Grier uses homophobic language and suggests that HIV exclusively affects gay people.
Thankfully, a lot of people have taken a stand against Grier's apparent homophobia, even many of his devoted followers. Additionally, in response to Grier's video clip, Dr. Gary Blick, co-founder of HIV Equal, and Tyler Curry, Senior Editor of HIV Equal Online, an initiative developed by World Health Clinicians and distributed through social media to end the stigma against testing for HIV and the disease itself, have released statements. On Grier's insinuation that HIV is directly related to being gay, they said the following:
HIV is not just a gay thing. It’s a woman thing, it’s an African-American thing, it’s a Latino thing - it’s something that affects everyone in every community. It’s time that our youth here in the U.S. wake up and realize that HIV doesn’t discriminate - and neither should they! Even though MSM (men who have sex with men) are the greatest at risk for contracting HIV, so are youth aged 13-23. Furthermore, the CDC reports that new HIV infections among women are primarily attributed to heterosexual contact (84% in 2010) or injection drug use (16% in 2010). Women accounted for 20% of estimated new HIV infections in 2010 and 24% of those living with HIV infection in 2009. Those in the Black/African-American community continue to experience the most severe burden of HIV compared to other races and ethnicities. Blacks represent approximately 12% of the U.S. population, but accounted for an estimated 44% of new HIV infections in 2010.
Our youth need to be made aware that stigma against a disease or a community of people is not something that we, as a society, will tolerate. Comments like the ones in Mr. Grier’s Vine video reinforce this point, and show the need that our youth here in the U.S. still have much to learn when it comes to HIV; and they are the most affected by the disease.
The hope is that Grier becomes more knowledgeable about these very important issues and that his followers, most of whom are young and impressionable, do not take the false information as truth.