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Men Are Driving the HIV Epidemic

By Gary Bell

July 23, 2009

That's right, I said it: it's men who are driving this epidemic. For all of the talk about the disproportionate impact of HIV on minority women, who do we think are infecting them: men.

By the way, the fastest growing population being infected with HIV is not women; it's young black men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 13 to 29. Overall, there are 30,000 new HIV infections annually among MSM.

Now before you go into the "AIDS is a gay disease mode," we must remember that gay and bisexual men probably make up a small percentage of men overall. We have to stop focusing so much on labeling people: "gay," "straight," "down-low," etc..

Many people are resistant to accepting certain labels. A man who primarily has sex with women, but occasionally also has sex with men, may consider himself straight. Likewise, the incarcerated man who seeks his sex with another man in prison, a partner who by the way, may be officially labeled in the prison as a "b***h," therefore making it more socially acceptable.

The focus has to be on responsibility such as: knowing one's HIV status; prompt diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and last but not least; safe and safer sex. So for the men reading this, the "ball's in your court." Man-up!

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Transition to Hope

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Transition to Hope

This year marks Bell's 14th as the executive director of the Philadelphia-based BEBASHI (Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health), founded in 1985 as the nation's first AIDS organization serving African Americans with HIV. Bell has been widely praised, not only for increasing funding and accountability at a time when HIV donations have plummeted, but also for launching such innovative programs as a women's initiative, prison-discharge planning, and, most recently, a diabetes intervention.

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