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The Rising Rates of HIV Among Black and Latino Men: What's Going On?

June 23, 2010

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Kenyon Farrow: I just have one last question. What do you think is working? Or, where do you have hope, despite all the damn-it's-bad data and everything else that we see. From each of your vantage points, what about black and Latino, gay men in relationship to the epidemic -- or not -- gives you hope about the possibilities of stemming the epidemic?

Sheldon Fields: Oh, I'll answer that one. There was a comment made earlier about not just leaving this up to Ph.D.s to study. And while I agree with that, I'll also disagree with that, to say it's the type of Ph.D.s that we had doing that research. As somebody who is an obviously prepared researcher, who also happens to be a gay man of color, I can tell you that my greatest hope is now that we are starting to purposefully assert ourselves in the national research agenda with things like the Black Gay Research Group and the HPTN [HIV Prevention Trials Network] scholars that have just been oriented to their program, that we have more of a connected way to assert ourselves in health policy with NBGMAC [National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition].That gives me hope. Because once we start pushing this agenda and start being able to sit at the tables where decisions about research funding and policy are being made, we have a much better chance of doing the types of research that are truly for us and by us. And we stand a much better chance of that research getting at some of those questions that other researchers just have ignored.

Because one of the things that I know for sure: If you are not at the table, you are more than likely on the menu. And that's never a good thing. So, I have hope.

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Kenyon Farrow: Francisco?

Francisco Roque: I, too, have hope. I think that there are a lot of things coming together. I say this a lot, and I run the risk of being cheesy and corny and all that. Call me the eternal optimist, but I still see beauty in my community. Whether it be in the House and Ball community, or outside of the House and Ball community, and when I look at communities of color overall, I see the creativity, and I see the innovation, and I see how gay men have been wrestling with this, and coming up with creative solutions.

I think that I am hopeful that we will continue to lift people up. And much of the work that we have been doing here at GMHC over the past few years has really been around lifting people up. I think that that is evidenced by our "I Love My Boo" campaign, and "My Son Is My Life." We are really looking to deal with people where they're at, and highlight what's working, and the resiliency within individuals and communities, and ways that support them.

"I think that while we are continuing to develop approaches that work for our communities, we need to also highlight what's working and continue to lift people up. Because certainly, folks are coming to the table and wrestling with this in innovative ways that we need to celebrate."
-- Francisco Roque

I just think that that's key. That's key. And again, I want to just echo that I think it is critical for us to allow opportunities for folks to be involved in the process in ways that they have not been involved. And so for me, I'm absolutely hopeful, and I'm absolutely inspired by what I see. I think that the next step is to really get real about what's happening. We need to really talk about serosorting. It's occurring in our community. Folks are being creative. Folks are coming up with solutions. Folks are looking for ways to protect themselves, to lower their risks. Folks are prioritizing themselves. And they're doing the best that they can with what they've got.

I think that while we are continuing to develop approaches that work for our communities, we need to also highlight what's working and continue to lift people up. Because certainly, folks are coming to the table and wrestling with this in innovative ways that we need to celebrate.

Kenyon Farrow: OK. Vaughn, what gives you hope? Or what do you see is working out there?

Vaughn Taylor-Akutagawa: What's working is that there are now enough educated black and brown people to go from the paraprofessional level to the professional level. We have inputted every possible means. We're actually listening to our community, and actually creating effective partnerships that are both participant-oriented yet provider-efficient. We show incredible flexibly and adaptability to meet the new funding needs. And we're surviving, regardless of that there are eight standing black agencies left, agencies to serve black, gay men; we're still here. We're still adapting and getting stronger. So that gives me hope.

Kenyon Farrow: Excellent. That's it. I want to thank each of you for taking the time out to talk to us at TheBody.com today.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

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