Young Gay Black Men Are Most at Risk for HIV Transmission
Black gay and bisexual men are still most at risk for AIDS transmission
In the Bahamas, a black Baptist preacher recently demonized gay people and blamed them for spreading AIDS. Bishop Simeon Hall of the New Covenant Baptist Church told his congregation that gay and lesbian couples need to "seek help" for the "deadly, abnormal sexual" behavior that they engage in. Bishop Hall was only part-right, though.
Those who engage in same-gender sex do need to seek help, but not because they are doing anything abnormal. They need medical help -- testing and treatment -- because HIV transmission is spreading the worse among gay African Americans, particularly among gay black men.
According to a new report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on HIV and AIDS, the group most affected by HIV are black men who have sex with men. They accounted for almost a quarter of all new HIV infections and more than half of all new infections among African Americans. It's for this reason that the CDC is launching a new campaign called "Testing Makes Us Stronger," to encourage more regular HIV testing, particularly among black men, the hardest hit group by HIV. The campaign contains images of black men on posters, billboards and other advertisements created by gay, black men for gay, black men as their target and will run in cities with major HIV problems such as Chicago, D.C. and Baltimore.
“Black gay and bisexual men across the country are already doing many of the right things to protect themselves – but more need to make HIV testing a regular part of their lives,” said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention. “Testing Makes Us Stronger was designed by black gay men for black gay men and strives to communicate the power of knowing your HIV status as a first step toward staying healthy.”
Some black heterosexual women, though, still, like the Bahamas Bishop Hall, see gay people as a threat to everyone, even though the statistics show that transmission is worse among gay populations than they are among non-gay populations. And gay men are still made out to be the boogeyman in the media.
Just recently, Usher's ex-wife Tameka Raymond Tweeted that gay men should have to wear "wristbands" to identify them from straight men -- as if to say that they are a threat to women such as herself.
Such banoodles reasoning was spread by the recently married rapper The Game who recently railed off about people "pretending not to be gay" spreading AIDS and death. Again, if there's any truth to what Game said, or any benefit of the doubt that can be applied to Tameka Raymond's Tweets, they're buried in the louder context that is the stigma and shame that is imposed upon gay and lesbian people who are castigated and blamed for the spread of AIDS.
Only a small percentage of black women contract HIV infections from men who have sex with men as opposed to those who don't. According to CDC data, 83% of black women with HIV infections contracted it from heterosexual men contact, and many of those from men who use drugs and have multiple female sex partners. But the group that HIV transmission is growing the highest among are young black gay and bisexual men, for whom HIV infections grew 50% between 2006 and 2009.
Which is why the CDC is encouraging everyone to get tested for HIV -- gay, straight, black or white, doesn't matter. Everyone is at risk of exposure if they are having sex, especially if having sex without condoms. Nearly one in five people with HIV are unaware that they have the infection. Men who have sex with men are the least likely to know that they are infected and less likely to get prevention counseling. The CDC is recommending that every American get tested once a year, and that gay and bisexual men should probably get tested every three months, especially if they are sexually active.
“Closing the gaps in testing, access to care and treatment will all be essential to slowing the U.S. HIV epidemic,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. “HIV testing is the most important first step toward breaking the cycle of transmission. Combined with effective prevention services, linkage to care and ongoing effective treatment, testing provides a gateway to the most effective prevention tools at our disposal.”