Ads designed to start a conversation about homophobia and homosexuality within the black community debut this month at nine Long Island Rail Road stations, on trains and buses, and across a trestle in West Babylon. Bay Shore-based Long Island GLBT Services Network is sponsoring the ads with help from a $37,000 state health department grant. Advertisement
"In the African-American community, it's taboo to talk about gays and lesbians," said Dale Anthony Edmonston, a black AIDS activist from Hempstead. The results have been disastrous for the community, he said.
African Americans have the highest HIV/AIDS rates among any racial group on Long Island, with 809.4 out of every 100,000 infected, compared with 317.1 for Hispanics and 94.9 for whites, state health department data show. Nationally, black men who have sex with men account for the largest number of new HIV/AIDS cases among blacks, according to CDC.
"HIV/AIDS continues to be a major health concern for all New Yorkers, but especially gay African-American men," said Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesperson for the health department. "The campaign will help to reduce the stigmas that often create barriers for African-American gay men to seek testing and treatment."
The Rev. Reginald Tuggle of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt said the campaign is misguided. "People who are gay come in all races. And homophobia exists in every community," he said. "To say that only black people don't like black people who are gay, that's silly." Gays, he said, are not a topic of discussion in many African-American churches because other issues are more relevant.
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