05/29/2014 02:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

President Of The Black AIDS Institute: Gay Men In New York Did Not And Do Not Matter

The recent release of the much-anticipated film "The Normal Heart," which follows a gay activist trying to raise awareness in the early years of the AIDS crisis, has sparked a renewed conversation about the disease and what exactly went wrong in the early days of the epidemic.

Phill Wilson, president of the Black AIDS Institute, spoke with HuffPost Live's Josh Zepps about what was going on in New York City during the outbreak of AIDS. He said that not only did gay men in New York not matter at the time, but this same marginalization still applies today.

"Today, the most at-risk population for HIV are young, black, gay men," Wilson said. "And they are at risk at part because it’s yet another population that just doesn’t matter and it seems, in some ways, we’ve not learned lessons [and instead] we’ve just changed the population that doesn’t matter."

The fight against AIDS is not a thing of the past, but the tools to end the epidemic are available, Wilson said, and the question is whether there is the will and desire to take the steps to actually do so.

"The fight is today. It’s a fight that we need to have and it’s certainly tied to access to care, it’s tied to access to information, but it’s also tied to making sure that we understand that everybody matters. Now the new folks that don’t matter in this context are young, black, gay and bisexual men and all of us need to be part of that fight because as we found out in the early days of HIV, HIV spread like it spread because we didn’t care about the first folks that we perceived to be at risk. And as long as anyone is at risk ... to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., we’re all at risk."

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation about early AIDS activist reflecting on "The Normal Heart" below:



AIDS in New York: The First Five Years