Media Examine African-American Men on "Down Low"
August 4, 2003
The Washington Post today examines black men on the "down low," an expression that describes black men who have sex with men but who never mention their male relationships to their female sex partners, friends or family members. In the black community, the topic of homosexuality -- "and anything else outside the heterosexual norm" -- conflicts with the "interlocking issues of race, religion and gender," Ron Simmons, executive director of Us Helping Us, an organization for black gay and bisexual men in Washington, D.C., said, according to the Post. Men who have sex with both men and women should be responsible for telling their female partners about their behavior, Eve Mokotoff, chief of HIV/AIDS epidemiology at the Michigan Department of Community Health, said, adding that many of the men deny their actions, according to the Post (Vargas, Washington Post, 8/4). According to a feature in yesterday's New York Times Magazine, "it seems that the majority of [black men] having sex with men still lead secret lives, products of a black culture that deems masculinity and fatherhood as a black man's primary respoinsbility -- and homosexuality as a white man's perversion." According to the CDC, approximately 33% of urban black MSM are HIV-positive, and 90% are unaware of their HIV-status. Although African Americans make up 12% of the overall U.S. population, they account for half of new HIV cases, according to Ricardo Wallace, an outreach worker for the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland. In addition, black MSM rarely use condoms and can act as an "infectious bridge," spreading HIV to "unsuspecting" wives and girlfriends, according to the Times Magazine. To address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the black population must discuss homosexuality "honestly and compassionately," the Times Magazine reports (Denizet-Lewis, New York Times Magazine, 8/3).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.