As far as Dr. Leo Moore is concerned, awareness is the best prescription for reducing HIV in the black gay community. The physician is at the forefront of an effort to reduce infections in LA County by educating residents and health care providers alike.
“I’m in a unique position to help this community, because I understand this community, because I grew up in this community, because I even became a black gay man in this community,” Moore told NBC Out.
Moore is frustrated by the high number of black gay and bisexual men who are at risk for contracting the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in two of them will be diagnosed in their lifetimes if current rates persist.
“I see it as a call to action to the agencies and organizations that I work with and the providers that I regularly talk with that this is something that we can change,” he said.
The 31-year-old oversees a program for Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health that educates medical providers about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that decreases the risk of HIV up to 99 percent when taken as prescribed. Under Moore’s leadership, the program has reached more than 700 clinics in six weeks.
“It’s a one in two lifetime risk if nothing changes, but there are many tools we have,” Moore said. “So let’s use this as a call to action [to] get more black gay men on PrEP and aware of their status through routine HIV testing in order to keep them HIV-negative.”
Moore, who manages the social marketing strategy for Get PrEP LA, is focused on changing the way HIV-prevention messaging is marketed to black gay men from multiple walks of life. He noted that traditional messaging often focuses on stereotypes.
“Every black gay man is not wearing baggy pants. Every black gay man is not on the down-low,” he said. “There are a lot of black gay men who are in the middle class who are overlooked by the messaging and are being missed.”
Reducing HIV rates might be a daunting task, but the Alabama native is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. He was the first in his family to graduate from medical school.
“There are a lot of barriers that I had to overcome to get through medical school, starting as early as high school being told by guidance counselors that with my grades I’d never become a doctor, to college having a pre-medical adviser tell me that it was going to be really difficult for me getting into medical school,” he said.
But the Morehouse School of Medicine graduate proved them wrong. Now he’s confident about slowing HIV rates.
“I’m really, really excited and hopeful for the future, because there are black gay men with their hands in the fight and are really focused on advocating for other black gay men,” Moore said. “I really do think that the best messages and best programs are going to be largely shepherded and spearheaded by the community — by black gay men.”
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