Commentary & Opinion
Black Silence on HIV/AIDS
June 28, 2010
"Sunday is National HIV Testing Day. The shame, discrimination, and (sometimes) abuse that come with a positive diagnosis stun people into silence, turning them into accomplices of a disease with no cure.
"Malebranche, who is gay, went to get his hair cut while working on a project in Philadelphia last year. 'We started kinda traditional barbershop talk about sports and stuff like that. As we got to talking, of course, it always gets around to women,' he told me.
"'It got so ridiculous because they kept complaining about what was going on with women that I just started laughing.' When the barber asked why he laughed, Malebranche said, 'Um, I'm into dudes.'
"The barber stopped the clippers, spun Malebranche around in his chair and reached out to shake his hand. 'He said, "Thank you, brother,"' Malebranche recounted. 'He said, "I really, really appreciate your honesty. You didn't make a big deal about it. You didn't try to hide behind it."'
"Malebranche explained that many people hide their sexuality because they're afraid of stigma.
"When I asked Malebranche why he told that story at the White House, he said he wanted to highlight the homophobia and discrimination in the black community that feed stigma. 'The silence can be something where that creates the tension and that creates the discomfort,' he said.
"It's time to cut through the tension and get over the discomfort. Silence in the face of HIV/AIDS equals death."
The author writes the Post Partisan blog on the website washingtonpost.com.
06.27.2010; Jonathan Capehart
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.
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