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16 March 2009

Comments

S. Flemming

Sad but not surprising ... people here take a lot of crazy risks, especially our young black men. Not sure what the solution is ... But this sort of thing is why I've kept myself on lock pretty much the entire time I've been here. I've met more positive people here than I've known all my life, so living here has been an eye opener for me. A little pleasure is so not worth the risks.

Ravenback

Thank you Rod for bringing this story to the front burner. I don't know exactly what to say, but the AIDS crisis is growing more and more bleak. I am blessed to be 43 yrs old and HIV negative. I remember when I became sexually active at 19 in the year 1985. Even though there was still plenty of ignorance about AIDS floating around back then, I knew how to prevent from acquiring it. In a lot of ways, I'm glad that I engaged in sex after the AIDS crisis began. At least I knew how to start off having sex the correct and safe way. But over the past 24 years, I have lost so many friends and acquaintances. And some of them I had sex with. Protection does work. Don't believe the myths about condoms not working.

We, as a people, as the Black community, need to do far more than we have so far. Not enough people are enlisting in the battle against AIDS. Ever since my early 20s, I have been active in AIDS awareness campaigns and testing programs. Unfortunately, there is too much indifference out there. Either people refuse to listen because they don't think that it applies to them (after all, they claim to be straight and not a "fag") or people just give in to what feels good at that moment (especially amongst our young people who feel healthy and invincible.) Those of us who are involved in the AIDS campaign keep working at it; even though it feels like a losing battle at times.

Of course, the Black churches cannot go unscathed in this discussion. Although, I must add that I left the church a long time ago. I believe in and worship God, but I have a major problem with organized religion. However, too much of Black political activism and community organizing is intertwined with Black churches. The church still views AIDS as a matter of right and wrong. AIDS is about suffering needlessly and reality. I have sat with and cared for too many AIDS sufferers, and it never occurred to mean that they asked for it or deserved it. I just saw a beautiful human life slowly and brutally wasting away. Sometimes, I would be the only non-medical person to actually give a damn about them. No one should die lonely.

Let me get off of my soap box. It would be nice to see a healthy and invigorating dialog about this subject on this blog.

elg

Tavis Smiley's State of the Black Union is a tired, non-event.
Why can't we (black gays) develop our own initiatives? We don't have to wait around for straight black "leaders" to get a clue.

Anthony in Nashville

Like the previous poster wrote, this is a sad story but not a surprising one.

You would think that with all our experience and info on HIV out there that things would be getting better but they appear to be worse. Perhaps it's an example of when knowledge is not enough. Or maybe the black gay community's self-esteem is so low that we just don't care.

As far as trying to raise consciousness among the likes of Tavis and other high profile blacks, I am almost at the point of not wanting to try anymore. They know we exist and are hurting but they do not care.

Derrick from Philly

" Or maybe the black gay community's self-esteem is so low that we just don't care."

Yes, Anthony, you're right. And how do we convince young folks who can't see a future that they could have one?

nathans

Unsafe sex is like Chris Brown for some people.They know its/he is not good for you but you do it/stck with him anyway...

Clearly lack of self esteem plays a role in explaining why so many young black men continue to participate in unsafe sex practices even though they know it is risky.

I came out when AIDS was a death sentence and HIV was social poison within the gay community and ostracism out side of it. I was 21 when I made the conscious decision to never have unsafe sex. So far so good however I know of so many people who chose otherwise.

I am so surprised that the young'uns did not get the memo

Ravenback

Thank you Rod for highlighting this very sad and disturbing problem with the fight against AIDS. I can say that I'm blessed to be HIV negative at the age of 43. I can remember when I became sexually active at 19 in 1985. During that time, there were a lot of misinformation and untruths about how AIDS was transmitted, but I did learn that condoms prevented the transmission of the virus. Thank God I wasn't sexually active until after the AIDS crisis began. I have lost many friends and acquaintances to AIDS, including men I had sex with.

Obviously, we are failing in the battle against AIDS. Ever since my early 20s, I have been active in AIDS awareness campaigns, testing programs, and caring for AIDS patients. During all of that time, it still amazes me that there's so much apathy and resistance out there. Some straight people think that it doesn't affect them, and some gays are thinking only with their small heads and not the big one between their ears. The young dudes really shock the hell out of me sometimes. If only they would take the time to care for an AIDS sufferer. Maybe something like a "scared straight" program. No pun intended.

I also think the Black church cannot go unscathed in this discussion. Too often, AIDS is discussed in the context of morality instead of compassion and education. Perhaps I'm not qualified to talk about this aspect because I left the church many years ago. I believe in and worship God, but I have a problem with religion and the church and how they try to tell people how to live their lives. I think too much of Black political activism and community organizing is intertwined with the church. This can lead to a very myopic viewpoint.

Let me get off of my soap box. We need to redouble our efforts. This is not the time to give up.

Lukas

Part of the problem, I think, is that no matter which way you cut it, black gay men are a minority within a minority -- and even more so if you consider how many were not tallied because they are on the down-low (a number that no one really knows). They are a minority within the LGBT community, and they are a minority with in the black community.

So, in terms of resources and advocacy, both the LGBT and the black community are struggling to have and keep a place at the table, concentrating on issues that affects the most people, and as usual, the (black gay) minority gets neglected.

Of course people can argue, that we don't have to wait for leaders to get a clue, but how many of us have the time, the access or the resources to actually make a difference?

WillieDynamite

First Tais is not straight, but that's another story.

I lived in DC for ten years and 3% may be a smaller amount than the reality. It got to the point where I learned to look for medications in refrigerators and medicine cabinets of my dates. I always found that the people that were positive didn't tell you until way into the relationships, if they admitted at all. Luckilly I'm still negative but we all need to watch out. People aren't honest.

Ravenback

Well, as you said WillieDynamite, people aren't honest. I just assume that everyone is HIV positive, and I act accordingly. I live near the Oakland, CA area. And AIDS out here is no small joke. It still amazes me the number of men who will have sex without a condom. The attitude is such a problem that I have had to turn people away sexually. If you don't insist upon condoms, men will have sex without them. A previously released statistic estimates that 1 out of every 2 gay black man is HIV positive. A very scary thought.

Kevin Perez

Don't be too hard on yourselves.

I'm Hispanic, gay and I have very low self-esteem. Probably lots more in the Latino community and the general Latin American population affected by Fundemental Christianity, as well as that tired ol' machoism. I'm very sexual but probably wouldn't have the courage to have sex in real life. The thought has crossed me plenty of times but this is reality, it's not the way it's seen in porn. And there are REAL consequences of having sex without a condom. It's hard to resist but in the end, it's just my fantasies and should careful to confuse that with reality. As much as I would like to do it but it's too much of risk IMHO, even with condoms.

I'm sick of people disgusted by the fact the LGBT people have the same animalistic urges that the Heterosexuals have and equate that to being sinful and deviant and abnormal, as well as promiscious and ''lifestyle choice''. Yeah, because ''straight sex'' is pure, Christian-like, as well as diaseased-free and ''moral''. After all, I'm sure Jeebus is more angry with gays than the out control wedlocks, lack of commitment and cheating and divorce in the Hetero community.

Don't forget the number of hetero diaseases that are also becoming epdemics.

Aaron

Yet another example of how the federal government has ignored the concerns (e.g., public education, HIV, gun violence, congressional representation, etc...) of the "other" Washington for years. You'd think they would be embarrassed to know that this was going on in the nation's capitol. Hopefully with new leadership (Fenty, Obama) and attention from the media, some progress will be made.

From da DMV

this is sad, and it seems to be getting worse. I've had my days of cutting up in and around the DC area in the late 80's and early 90's, but once i got involved all those late night trips into DC stopped. Looking back, I am very lucky, and thankful because i could have been a part of the statistic of black gay men contracting the disease. I think the youth that are contracting it look at Magic and say if he can live with it so can i. Which is a sad way to think, because Magic has $$$ to fly Africa or whereever and try experimental drugs that keep his T-Cell count high. I think the message of safe sex somehow is alluding our youth. God bless us all. . . .

AfroGay

No, this is not the government's problem Aaron!! It is OUR problem. We are the ones who drop our pants and have unprotected sex, and you cannot blame the government for our volition. Even in societies where education is a luxury, they know how that Aids/HIV is spread through unprotected sex, so you have to ask yourself why we are taking chances despite what we know. On this one, I don't see how you can blame the government.

On a separate but related note, I wonder if you have a profile on Adam4adam. Now, there is a site that encourages the spread of HIV/Aids, what with how it encourages its members to lie about their status. That is where we need to start - removing the avenue that allows so men to claim they are negative when they cannot possibly be!! Adam4adam is, no doubt, directly complicit in the spread of Aids/HIV in the gay community today, but ultimately individuals are to blame for having unprotected sex.

Kevin Perez

Ummmm..... Why aren't there 50+ comments in discussions like these? Such issues deserve lengthy and mutiple comments like we see in other postings. What gives?

jb

Yeah Aaron I know exactly what u mean the other "Washington" has for too long been treated like a foreign country almost as if it doesn't exist. People try to put blinders on to ignore whats really happening and high rates of HIV/AIDS are only one of the many problems facing the District. But we as a community have to face reality and start using safer sex practices. As a 23 yr old its sad to say but I haven't had sex in 8 months and counting because I'm too afraid of catching something. But my friends are a different story; they feel invincible. If you read some of the ignorant comments left on news sites about this story; we as a society haven't come that far in our views of HIV. You know... Blame the gays.

Barton

This news and some elements of the comments are disturbing on many levels. ... not sure where to start. Firstoff, I have been poz for 20 years. Many DC residents likewise have been living with it for years. Back then, it had little to do with "crazy risky" behavior and such. That is why so many are not here. We thought that if we didn't go to bathhouses or date Whites or do drugs or whatever ... we were safe. It only took one encounter. However, those recently infected are due IMO to younger folks not witnessing firsthand the devastation of the 80s & 90s. As someone said ... they see Magic Johnson, etc. Also, the powers to be are not affectively dealing with the disease of drug addiction or responsible sexual activity. "safe sex" has become a slogan without IMO real cause and effect models. Meanwhile (Kevin), some of us continue to do what we can for others and live our lives
while be baffled by these stats. We care though. Wow, can't believe I outed my status. I am one of those men with a great body, mind and energy - would never know. btw, no need to check fridge (WillieD) meds are hidden. btw, in a ltr with neg man. Let's focus on how we can prevent more cases and support those already infected, without the judgement. Okay,getting off my soapbox. Was not "coming" for fellow posters - know you did not mean any harm.

Louis

What has me afraid is that most Black men are not being testing for HIV. If 3 percent is being reported, I am afraid of what the TRUE percentage is. Someone has already asked the question, what is the solution to this problem...for the most part, the Black church hasn't stepped up to the plate as it should (yes, there are a FEW Black churches that do, but they are few in number), black politicians are generally in denial as well; our Black society as large still pretends that Black men and women are don't exist in significant numbers in the community. This is depressing.

Q

I have basically asked the following questions over at Towleroad and other gay blogs several times and have always been met with total silence:

With African-Americans consistently being reported with the highest rate of infection, how come most advertising and outreach is geared toward wealthy white gay men? How come every annual fundraiser that I have ever seen reported on gay blogs shows maybe 10 African Americans at best? Why don't these events ever reflect the reality of the situation?

Just askin'. Anybody?

Jarid

This drives me crazy. As a youth worker (who often has to work with the adult parents as much or more than the kids) i see a pattern after pattern after pattern of basically this attitude: " I'm going to willfully assist in my own destruction. I know what I should be doing to protect myself, but I can't muster up the energy to make the change, take a stand. I don't care whether it's eating something that will give me diabetes and make my damn legs fall off, or having mindless unsafe sex, etc etc, I'm just going to.. well, ,what's up, hang out, no consequences of my own actions will catch me, that sh*t only happens to somebody else... "

I even see it with kids who are already HIV positive or have AIDS.... (often thru birth). Getting them into a healthy track of accepting personal, actual ability and __Responsibility __ to personally care for themselves is our greatest challenge and success. But it is such intensive, individualized work. Unless we have a nation of workers again, helping each young person develop those personal tools (notice I didn;t say "give" i said help them generate it inside themselves -- big difference), many will continue to just allow themselves to be dragged along by life. I should know- i used to be that screwed up mf myself. Luckily, i gained self esteem thru survival, and luckily also (humbled and thankful) I survived to be healthy. The best thing I can do now is give back every day, in some way: ~~~~"You can have the most exhilarating life by getting healthy and giving back."

Lukas

Q, I think one of (if not THE) major reason is money. While it is true, that the infection rate in the black community is among the highest, the economic of scale is unfortunately tipped towards the other way. Would those so-called philanthropists be willing to give as much or more to help an ethnic group over that of their own?

Another problem is overall denial -- there is still a stigma, for example, that homosexuality is a "white man's" problem. So, reaching out to the community amounts to an insult on the community -- and perhaps have the opposite effect of the community rejecting the outreach rather than welcoming it.

Now add on to that the minority within a minority mentality, that there is a lack of will and resources for a grass-roots movement for awareness within the black gay community. In fact, I would question the existence of a black gay community without being a part of some other community.

Anthony in Nashville

I also thought there would be more comments on this story but perhaps we are in denial ourselves about HIV and violence against our community, and would rather talk about Rihanna, porn, or Tyler Perry.

@ Q :

I may get flamed for this, but oh well. Most outreach is geared at white gay men, I'm sure racism plays a role in that but I also think educators/fundraisers may be frustrated that efforts aimed at the black gay community haven't seemed to produce any results. I think the black gay HIV infection rate has been rising since the 1980s, and nobody seems to know why we don't get the message. Nobody can advocate for us better than ourselves, and too many of us don't care.

I have done some volunteering at the local HIV services organization and even with them having black staff members I rarely see black clients at events aimed at education/prevention, self-esteem, and such. But when they sponsor a party 500 people show up.

Some will say it's because too many of us don't identify as gay, so we don't see things aimed at "the gay community." How do you reach people who essentially pride themselves on being invisible?

Nathan James

Here in NYC, there are some excellent programs for HIV prevention/education directed towards SGL men of color. Two of these are Black Men's Initiative at Harlem United (I'm on their Community Advisory Board, which you can join, too. Just come in on the last Monday of the month--www.harlemunited.org) and Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC). Both offer free HIV testing and a supportive, friendly environment for gay men to come in and get the knowledge they need to stay negative.

Young gay men of color need and deserve the essential knowledge that will give them the means to stay negative all their lives. Without a stark, frightening reminder of the effects of AIDS (in the '80s I used to see friends dying horribly all the time), because these effects are far less visible now, prevention/education is even more critical.

I've managed to stay negative all through the years, and every young gay man of every color needs to understand that they can, too. The alternative is the numbers of HIV-positive people will continue to climb, and we will eventually disappear.

nathans

I think those of us of a certain age HIV posititive or negative need to be more visible and outspoken about our lives so that the young ones can see that there is a future possible.

I quick uncaring f**K is but one small aspect of our lives.

S. Flemming

@ Barton ...

I didn't mean to sound offensive when I mentioned crazy risks; if I did I apologize. But I was referring to the younger crowd. I've come across guys barely in their twenties who have done things I still haven't done, and that frightens the hell out of me. I too think it has to do with the fact that they just were not faced with it like those of us 30 or older were. I remember family friends dying in the late eighties and early nineties, the celebs dying (I remember reading in Jet in the barbershop as a child when Sylvester passed from AIDS) and all that stuff. I lost two cousins to AIDS as well. They don't have the same points of reference. So when I hear of the careless behavior of some young dudes it makes me sad. As I said, I don't really know what the solutions are ... but more than anything I guess, as many said, we can't really wait on whites or black straights to do anything on our behalf. I guess we really have to work on it.

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