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04 August 2009



Don't get me wrong, rising HIV infections should be a top priority. But, wouldn't we expect the majority of newly infected people not to know they are HIV+? What is the purpose of somebody who already knows his/her status to get retested? I must not be clear what this information tells us.

Anthony in Nashville

These stats provide so much to think about, even though some of us have been aware of them for quite some time.

After all these years, why are black gay men so disproportionally affected? If these stats are true, then it's likely we've known someone who is HIV positive, yet it's as if nothing has been learned. I would like to think that people know how to protect themselves, but obviously something is going on to counteract the message about safe sex and healthy choices.

Are we still living in denial?

Is our self-esteem so poor that we just don't care?

Does unprotected sex feel so good that we're not willing to compromise?

Are people unaware of sexual health and the availability of free condoms?

So many questions, no easy answers.


@ Roderick

I think you are misinformed. You ask what is the purpose of somebody who already knows his/her status to get retested? Are you seriously asking that question? You should get tested regularly. I know I do. It is a part of my regular physical. I also get tested for colon and prostate cancer. My cholesterol level and blood pressure is checked. I recently was checked for anal cancer since there has been an increase in the incidence of anal cancer amongst gay men. Even though I use a condom when having sex, I still get tested. The point is: HIV tests should be a regular part of your medical checkup. This study points out that black gay men are being reckless in our sexual behavior and regarding our health status. We know that we are highly likely to engage in sex with HIV+ individuals. We also know that we have an increased chance of being HIV+ as well. Yet the black gay male community is not stepping up to the challenge. Condoms and regular testing go hand in hand. We need to protect ourselves and protect others. The earlier you find out your HIV status, the greater the chance you have to stay healthy and live longer whatever your status is.

Having worked in AIDS prevention and education programs, this is probably the most frustrating thing to deal with -- apathy. I don't get it. The million and one excuses people give for not using a condom or not getting tested is unbelievable. I have a friend whose nephew complains about how uncomfortable condoms are. My friend gave him a big-sized jar of assorted condoms. He told his nephew that one of these condoms should fit him just right. The bottom line is: there are no excuses.

These studies sadden me because it shows that we are losing the battle against AIDS. You are so right Anthony. But we can't give up. If each one of us can reach at least one other person and convince them to act more responsibly, then that's a major step in the right direction. Take a friend to get tested. Bring extra condoms to give to friends and sexual acquaintances. Whatever it takes.


I don't buy the fact that these brothers were "unaware" of their hiv status. No one in 2009 can make me believe otherwise.

If you have anal sex with a man and don't use a condom, you will more then likely contract hiv. That is the easiest way to contract the virus.

We've seen an increase in bareback porn sites featuring young black men in recent months while, simultaneously, new strains of hiv are being discovered. This is so irresponsible and speaks to the level of greed in the world.

People are living longer, yet dying daily from AIDS.

This epidemic is just revving up.

My biggest fear is coming true. Just like the tobacco industry uses the poor, and mostly people of color to buy their product; black gays are becoming a never ending source of income for many pharmaceutical company's bottom line.

Use a condom each and every time you have sex brothers, and stop saying you are unaware of your status. This is 2009. Become aware and stop the genocide.

Rod Mc

@ Roderick:

The numbers should be clear, no? Rising seroconversions show greater percentages of black gay/bi men are having unprotected sex. The "unaware" stats show that fewer are getting tested.

IIRC, the Chicago #s showed white gay positive men at 25% unaware, Hispanic at %50 unaware and blacks at %70 unaware. So almost 3 times as many gay HIV poz black are unaware of their status. That very important and figures into unprotected sex, etc.


Unfortunately that is the reality. Some newer data suggests many black gay men are HIV positive for two or more years without knowing, or, even develop AIDS-related illnesses before they know they are HIV positive. -RM


*word should be recent, not resent in my post. my bad..

Got it thanks! -RM

DW Jazzlover

My God This sounds like a replay of 1981.28 Years of denial..and we are still keeping the foundations well funded!
Please forgive my cynicism but this kind of news is just so frustrating.


I am always amazed when I see these stats. Why is this so?

Is it a self esteem issue?

I know its not lack of information.

Is it a distrust of the 'authorities'

Is it the fact that the picture of AIDS is less frightening than when the 'gay plague' first hit us in the early 80s.

Where do we go from here?

I cant tell anyone how to enjoy their sexual activity BUT for me sex has alwasy been about positivity,sharing a special bond with someone SO why would I want to infect someone or become infected while doing it!

Ideally I prefer to be in a caring honesty based long term relationship BUT failing that :

No condom no intercourse. Simple as that.

In addition HIV testing is routine for me now along with my PSA ( prostate) cholesterol, Blood Pressure and Diabetes LOL ....Age aint no joke!

We need to embrace LIFE and love ourselves !


@ nathans

beautiful post. i can relate on so many levels. i'll taking aging over the alternative any day...lol

on another note, i absolutely believe the statistics. i just think people are lying when they provide the data. i can't have a cough for too long without having it checked out. no one can make me believe that the majority of these brothers didn't have some symptoms of something being wrong with their health within a 2 year period.


Thanks Rod... I think I got it... You saying that these men who are getting tested were "unaware" of their status because they have never been tested before. I think there should be some sort of caption next to "unaware" (i.e. first time tested). For simple folks like myself so the message comes across clear. Also love the math, facts are important and thanks for displaying all the data.

@Ravenback... Yes you are right! We should get check regularly and for the record I do. My thought was single minded in thinking how could someone who has never been tested know their status. Not realizing that was point. Thanks for clarifying.


thanks Freeleo... from time to time I interact with younguns and I too remember when I was young, I felt I could live forever and age 30 seemed so old and far away.

Sometimes the symptoms of HIV infection are subclinical( not very obvious) and may not cue the person into thinking that they are sick.

However if I was in the habit of having unsafe sex I would get tested regularly no matter what.

Back in the early 80's there was such a stigma attached to HIV/AIDs( and the assumption that if you were gay you were infected).

Now it seems we dont care


I hate to provide answers to the bulk of the questions above, but here goes:

Are we still living in denial?
Is our self-esteem so poor that we just don't care?
Does unprotected sex feel so good that we're not willing to compromise?
Are people unaware of sexual health and the availability of free condoms?

HIV is no different than a lot of diseases that currently exist. There are people with diabetes who refuse to change their diet, test their sugar or even go see a doctor when their vision starts to go...these same people have everyone on their momma's side of the family on pills, missing a limb or dead from the disease. I would propose quite the same with many other health problems e.g. high blood pressure. We just lost one of our beloved storytellers to the illness and we miss him so much still.

In my humble opinion, I think people like to think that it will never happen to them. They are careful...they don't pick a sick lookin' brother to f*** around with, they make him pull out before he cums inside of them, they never swallow---c'mon, we all know the answers to the question:

"How do I protect myself from a disease that I don't even think I can really get?"

The answer is that you cannot protect yourself from a disease that you don't truly believe that you are at risk for...why would you?

Perhaps, we need to go back to re-educating folks that this disease doesn't care if you are from Yale or jail-----it will destroy your immune system and eat away at your body, bit by bit, but there are ways that you can lower your risk including condoms, non-invasive sexual activities, knowing your partner's history etc.

The greatest trick the devil ever played was making people believe that he didn't exist---the same with HIV...except with HIV, you take more than your own life in your hands, you are taking an entire community right along with you.


Well I don't know what to say other than these young people need to wake up and smell the coffee, since as it is already heading to being a black and brown disease which means it will then be totally ignored by just about everyone in society and even on some gay blog's it is now be classified as such, and, with funding coming to almost a total halt for those infected in most major cites, low self esteem, young and fearless that it won't happen to them or not, safe sex had best become an option or sadly death.


I have quite a few friends who found out they were HIV-positive when they developed an opportunistic infection and their T-cells were already below 100 (!).

While this may partly be attributable to denial, it is mostly because my friends just never saw a doctor at all. Some of them (most of them?) didn’t have health insurance anyway.

And yes, you can be tested for free, but how many people who grew up in low-income families with low levels of education, families in which there are no habits of preventive medicine, are going to go out of their way to a clinic to get tested when nothing in particular is wrong with them? Only if their level of mindfulness is way out of the ordinary.

The only way this is ever going to stop is if the community as a whole confronts this issue head on and establishes new norms of behavior. You go to some Caribbean countries or African countries, and there are billboards about HIV everywhere, and most everyone gets tested. Not strangely, the infection rates in such countries drops or at least levels off.

So long as the black church can get rich off of homophobia, that just isn’t going to happen here.

Nathan James

I hear the sad, old, refrain from too many gay men I know:"I'm never getting tested". Even when they will buy your lunch (there was a testing program here in NYC that actually gave you a nice, new $20 bill for getting tested), fear of the possible diagnosis keeps too many men away from testing. There's also the myth that being infected "isn't so bad", because there are meds to maintain you, and government services like HASA to sustain you. Oh, boy, if only the reality were truly known more widely! There are resources like http://justinshivjournal.blogspot.com/>Justin's HIV Journal, but, again, fear or denial keeps too many people away.

It is far superior to avoid infection in the first place, than to live with the virus. There are, as Rod has pointed out many times, a myriad of factors contributing to the frightening numbers of SGL men of color becoming HIV-positive. But for me, it still boils down to abject fear. In the eyes of many, it's better to party on, and take that scrumptious hunk from the club home to bed, than to think about the viruses he may be carrying. I have seen too many (ONE is too many) friends become sick and die from this horrible affliction over the past 25 years. Many more are living with HIV or AIDS (and as they will readily tell you, it is a markedly poorer quality of life than they enjoyed before infection), and it appears that we are falling back, not advancing, in our fight to control the spread of this plague in our community. ACT-UP had a slogan in the 1980's: "Silence=Death". Never more true than today.

Chitown Kev

You know I was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago for a couple of weeks (spent my birthday in a hospital bed). Lord knows I haven't always had safe sex in the year and a half since I was last tested. Knowing all of the Chicago HIV stats that Rod has been publishing, I asked my doctors to give me an HIV test. Hell, they were taking twice a day, anyway, so it was just as well.

I tested negative.

There is NO EXCUSE for anyone living in Chicago, Illinois in the gay community (either on the North Side or the South Side) not to get tested. NONE! If not for your own information and health then for the health of others.

With this disease, each and every one of us DOES have the obligation to be our brother's (or sister's, if you're a DL coward) keeper.


I have three close friends that I know of who are positive an one who I almost lost a few years ago from AIDS. I know of a few aquaintances that have died.

My friend X almost died of AIDs. X was, in the early 90's, quite one of the stars of our club scene: Perfect body, smooth ebony skin, well spoken, very popular, free invites to all the hot parties and always had beautiful boyfriends. i lived vicarioulsy through him LOL! But by the late 90's things started to change. He had difficulty keeping weight on, his skin became more crusty and his hair although kept short changed ( became very thin). He also became very sensitive to strong tasty foods. I suspected that he was sick and I gave him ample opportunity to open up to me about it. But instead he became more withdrawn ( from us but not from partying) and eccentric while never admitting he was ill.

During one stretch I did not see him for a few months then when I saw him I was so shocked by his appearance that I immediately asked him about his condition. At first he denied it but when I hugged him and told him that I was there for him he confessed to being infected. Since then( about 5 years ago) he has entered the retroviral program, he is off drugs, he has reduced his partying and he looks great AND we are still friends.

Maybe we all need to get out there and be better friends to our bros...

And we could start from when they are young before its too late...


Beautiful post, nathans. God bless you and your friend.


you know what. we have to start repromoting condom usage among black gay men.so then we have to carry them everyday so when we see rashawn or breon or kevin across the street on our way to whereever,we're prepared should something sexual happen.also we need to use dental dams for oral sex. very simple, if you like having sex alot,then in order to ensure you being able to keep having it alot for a lifetime,you need to protect yourself simply with condoms!

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