|New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that
there is a resurgent HIV epidemic among gay men and, in particular, young
Black gay men. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Data from the survey
reveal that the virus has infected more than one in three young Black gay
men. The same survey reveals that HIV has infected about one in seven
Hispanic and less than one in 10 White young gay men. The survey included
men aged 23 to 29.
The findings do not surprise Dr. Ron Simmons, Executive Director of Us
Helping Us (UHU), the only Washington, D.C. area organization specializing in
HIV/AIDS services for African-American gay and bisexual men. "It was not a
surprise to me because the incidence rate for mature Black men has not fallen
and society has yet to properly target prevention messages to young Black
men," says Simmons.
He proposes that new and expanded campaigns deal with basic issues like the
verbal, physical, emotional, spiritual and sometimes sexual abuse that young
gay men often face beyond the abuse society gives them for being Black.
"Unlike older men, younger ones have had less time to learn how to handle
these issues," says Simmons. After all the abuse on and off the streets and
in and out of their families added Simmons, "When it comes to that moment of
sexual pleasure and the need to decide whether to use a condom, they don't
use protection because they often accept other's belief that they are not
worthy of being saved."
He believes that it will take a lot more resources to get young black men to
change their sexual behaviors. "If we are serious about reducing the
infection rate among young gay Black men then we need to promote HIV
awareness and prevention the way McDonald's promotes Happy Meals," he
And it's a message that all African-Americans need to heed. CDC has also
revealed that data suggests that one in every 50 African-American men is
infected with HIV and one in every 160 Black women is infected. We far
outpace Whites in this regard where one in every 250 white men is infected,
and one in 3,000 White women. While we represent just 13 percent of the U.S.
population, more than half of all new HIV infections occur among blacks. We
are also 10 times more likely than Whites to be diagnosed with AIDS, and 10
times more likely to die from it. AIDS is in fact the leading cause of death
for African Americans between the ages of 25 and 44.
UHU prevention activities include condom distribution at local bars and
nightclubs, workshops in private homes, counseling and testing. The private
and public-funded agency also provides a "Down Low" HIV help line
(888-547-3235). "The line is open to anyone, including heterosexual men and
women, with questions regarding HIV prevention, support services, and
referrals," says Simmons.