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.
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.
This article was provided by TheBody.com.
Comment by: Jack L
Fri., Dec. 28, 2012 at 12:48 am EST
just dropped in on this. While I agree about all the societal factors - homophobia > on the down lo > MSM etc. the thing that somehow is being missed is that sex is fundamentally about exchange of body fluids. Period. You can unpack this into power, feelings of completeness, powerful fantasies about sharing, possession and so on. Societal factors will increase the need. This is not to say good programs that make safety desirable can't have some impact. But lets recognize that sex is about exchange of body fluids and promote morning before and morning after solutions.
Comment by: JC
Fri., Jun. 3, 2011 at 11:27 pm EDT
This is a very old article but I still want to leave my 2 cents. I am a gay Hispanic male and in the Latino community there are a combination of family "honor", religion and culture factors involved leading men to live closeted lives (often married as well) resulting in these men seeking "men to men sex" through risky avenues which equals "the internet" period. There are tons of gay sex hookup sites as well as Craigslist personals and these men are on it - believe me on this. Some of these men use alcohol or drugs to over come their "fears or inhibitions" and "boom" the consequences of unprotected sex occur.
Comment by: San
(St> petersburg FL)
Thu., Aug. 12, 2010 at 11:33 am EDT
Just wanted to support the comment from Drew(Sydney, Australia) . We need to make things happen... Dealing with churches is one of biggest chalenges.
Comment by: WF
Thu., Aug. 12, 2010 at 10:59 am EDT
All organized religions has historically been the cause of many events held in anathema today, and yes including perhaps as the cause for the rise of HIV rates among Black and Latinos, but some of the responsibility has to be taken on by the entire culture.
The stigma of being homosexual in these communities will perpetuate as long as homophobia is allowed to be a part of the community. Using terms like "DL", "MSM", "Same Sex Loving", do nothing more than support the denial of the reality that some men of color are gay, and fomenting the myth that only white men are be gay.
We are doing an injustice to ourselves, and the diaspora of the LGBTQ community by not addressing the real issues head on. Education about LGBTQ people in our communities is vital, and I will promise you that lifting the stigma of being gay will enhance self-worth and reduce unhealthy beliefs and behaviors.
People of color have to work at becoming a part of this society and end the self imposed apartheid. The LGBTQ movement is for all who identify as homosexual. Yes! Let's start using the term homosexual openly, and stop using these euphemisms that enshrines denial and ignorance. Until this happens the hiding, denial and the spread of this epidemic will continue to escalate.
I am a proud Afro-Caribbean, HIV poz homosexual man. I have nothing to ashamed about. I love men and will always to have sex with men. We have to stop coddling the low self-worth, bigotry and homophobia among our own people, and instead raise awareness of how these are elements of the rise of HIV in our communities; and that every man and woman has to take responsibility for their own behavior and well being. Self determination and responsibility will be a factor that will build a healthy community.
That is clearly the course of action that must be taken by each individual; and those that are in the position to educate have the responsibility to impart this knowledge and stop beating around the bush.
Replies to this comment:
Comment by: NCFred
Sat., May. 14, 2011 at 2:45 am EDT
You have explained the problem in an excellent manner. I am a masculine African American man who is openly gay and HIV positive. I have been attacked by black churches because I asked several black ministers to include HIV awareness and prevention information with other information that they have at the church. The responses I got include things like "If a person has AIDS he deserves it because of abomination." None of the black churches in my town will even mention the word AIDS unless it is to condemn the people who have it. They don't understand that AIDS is not a "gay" disease. It is a blood disease. Because AIDS was initially associated primarily with gay white men, many black organizations such as the black church are refusing to participate in AIDS prevention and treatment efforts.
Comment by: gurlzone
Thu., Aug. 12, 2010 at 10:44 am EDT
Just want to say that this is an amazing and thoughtful article. These men articulate the most important ideas I have heard yet about MSMOC and HIV. Is there a way to put this on my fb page?
Comment by: MoreAnon
Mon., Jul. 26, 2010 at 7:05 pm EDT
Thank you gentlemen for the forum.
I must say that religion and the church is often accused of enforcing the many clandestine behaviors that oftentimes perpetuate the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially among men of color.
Pointing to the government [Drew AUS] as a source of this kind of societally influential pressure is, in my view, trying to find yet another scapegoat to point an accusatory finger at. I am aware of how vulnerable MSM, bisexual and gay men are to the pressures that are exerted by this[ese] group[s], but I believe that in 2010 (and beyond), it is FULL time now for this community to mobilize and become better informed LONG before sexual practices are even considered (this point was alluded to as a common thread throughout the article).
I also see where one of the panelists made a very key point: many people cannot even DEFINE what a community is, or where to find the people that comprise it much less to enforce and build on the information about STDs and the treatment base that is needed. My solution to this is that we need to encourage open dialogue with young men and women from an early age in the school AND church structures about sex, sexuality and the risks that are out there when such activities are taken into consideration.
Just like how various forms of prevention programs that exist start at an early stage [take for example, immunizations], we as a people need to start addressing a population that knows less and less about patience and seek all the pleasures that come with instant gratifications.
People need to be reminded of the ramifications of sexual practices in their various forms and be reminded of HOW it actually feels to be infected with a disease that has no cure as yet. When that point is driven home, I think more people will indeed start to wise up.
Comment by: Drew
Thu., Jul. 8, 2010 at 1:47 am EDT
I think the elephant in the room with a rise in African American /Latino is the role of "the church".
In the African American Community the Protestant Churches in particular the Baptist Church has played a large role ..think Civil Rights Movement
And in the Latino Community the Roman Catholic Church plays a large part in family life.
The Church promotes a homophobic view point that makes it hard for many Gay black or latino men to come out ...thus creating an environment of denial. This can be seen with the concept of "the down low" where many Black and latino men who are in a heterosexual marriage have sex with men on the side.(MSM)
Just some food for thought. Im glad I now live in Australia with an HIV rate of 0.01% one of the lowest in the Western World, due to a proactive progressive Govt(Hawke / Labor) in the early 1980's unlike the denial illustrated by the Republican Reagan Admin, in the early days.
The Christian Churches in the United States have a strangle hold on the Republican Party...spewing hatred...very Un-Christian indeed.
Whereas here in Australia we have our First Female PM who is an out proud athiest...This would be political suicide in the United States.
Enjoyed the article.
Cheers Drew xxx
Comment by: D. Smith
Wed., Jun. 30, 2010 at 3:09 pm EDT
One of the main factors contributing to the spread of HIV in the minority community is "culture". Culture as I define it would consist of practices, behaviors and rituals which have become norms within our community. This factor alone sets in place an array of other conponets that operate to our community's detriment. Culture is continuously being create and influenced by powers which only desire to exploit our human capital potential for the maintenance of its prisons, judicial system, etc.
Freedom from HIV begins with our communities examing and creating new culture. We need to abolish behaviors (and I'm not speaking against peoples sexual freedoms, nor for the adoption of any fundalmentalist religous viewpoint), which lend themselves to our self destuction. Truthfully cultural practices that sustained us yesterday, may not work for us today. We must evolve in our thinking or risk self genocide.
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