Black Journalists' Group Debates "Down Low" Coverage
August 8, 2005
At the recent meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists in Atlanta, members debated whether coverage of men living on the "down low" -- engaging in relationships with women while secretly having sex with men -- is a public service or a salacious distraction from other issues -- such as unemployment, education, and homophobia -- facing the black community.
Often, media coverage of bisexual black men is accompanied by statistics showing the rise of HIV in the black community. Though they account for just 12 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans comprise 54 percent of annual new HIV infections.
"We have missed the mark by focusing on AIDS and by demonizing black men," said Wall Street Journal reporter Steven Gray. "I think it created a bogeyman for black women without proper context." Some critics charge the "down low" hype has prompted some black women to conduct "witch hunts" to determine whether the men in their lives are secretly bisexual.
But living on the "down low" is not exclusive to the black community, some gays pointed out, and white men have long been engaging in similar behaviors, as evidenced by the recent coming-out of then-governor James McGreevey of New Jersey.
Panelist J.L. King, best-selling author of the book "On the Down Low" who is currently working on a second book about the topic, said his motive for writing about the phenomenon is "to bring awareness about the issue." "I have met too many women and men infected with HIV because they have been lied to in relationships," said King.
08.06.05; D. Aileen Dodd
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.