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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
Kai Chandler Lois Crenshaw Gary Paul Wright Fortunata Kasege Keith Green Lois Bates Greg Braxton Vanessa Austin Bernard Jackson

HIV Frontlines: In Newark, N.J., an HIV/AIDS Advocate Finds New Ways to Reach LGBT African Americans

A Conversation With Gary Paul Wright

October 18, 2010

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This podcast is a part of the series This Positive Life. To subscribe to this series, click here.

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Yeah, you have. But I also think that the issue is that you can holler, but we have to be able to open up people's ears to want to listen to what you're saying. And I think, slowly, it's happening. I think, unfortunately, it's taken black women dying of AIDS for the community to actually now want to say, "OK, this is an issue." For years, gay black men were dying, and no one was paying attention.

Right. Right. Right.

And I think that that's a shame on our community. Now is the time to make amends for that, and to start listening.

Yeah. There's no going back; we've just got to keep pushing forward.

There definitely has been a disconnect between the generations of gay black men, especially in terms of HIV. And we kind of talked about it: One of the theories that's kind of out there as to why there's that disconnect is just because young people feel invincible and don't think that anything can hurt them.

But there's also this theory that one of the reasons that there's such a disconnect with HIV is because they didn't really see, and haven't really seen, anyone die in the kinds of ways that people in the '80s and '90s did. Do you find that to be true, from your experiences?

I do. I really do. You know what? That's what got me involved in doing HIV work many, many years ago. Because people that I were associated with started getting sick, and started dying. One of the last things I did in Los Angeles -- in my previous life, I used to be an actor. I did a play called Punks. And even though it was set after HIV had already been around for a couple of years, a lot of people still didn't know about it. The play dealt with a community of guys who went to the gym in West Hollywood, and how HIV sort of infiltrated that core group, and people started dying.

Well, it was a play, and it was a comedy, and it had a lot of good music. But it was, in fact, reality. Because in my own life, people were getting sick and dying. And when I got to New York, they were dying in droves.

For a long time, I think that we in the gay community -- not to mention the black gay community -- but we in the gay community thought, "Oh, my God; it really is just us." And we had to start fighting for our lives. And then we opened our eyes and it was like, "Oh, my God; it's everybody. It's a lot of people." And I think it was just too, too slow in getting into the African-American community. And now I think we are dealing with the consequences.

Now, as far as the disconnect with the young people, I think it's mainly due to the fact that our families were so silent for so long. You know, "Uncle Joe died of cancer."

Oh, my goodness. Yes.

You know, that whole thing. And still, people would rather die from "the sugar" [diabetes] than HIV. That stigma is still, still there. And until we get rid of that, our jobs are going to be really, really tough. Oh, man.

Is there anything else that you would like to say or provide insight on that I didn't ask about? Anything about the African American Office of Gay Concerns?

Well, I do want to put it out there that although we try to meet the young people where they are at, I mean, there are some guys in their 40s, in their 50s, and in their 60s -- and dare I say, 70s, as well; you all need to get tested, too. You cannot go around thinking that you are immune. That's wrong. It's childish. You know where you've been. You know where you've been, and you know you need to go get tested, so we can get you into care and get you into treatment if you test positive.

But I'm hoping everybody's going to be negative. God, I do hope everybody's going to be negative. So I just want to address that community, as well, and just tell anybody in that age group: We're still not immune; it can still happen. All it takes is one time. Condoms -- use condoms; use condoms; use condoms; use condoms.

Thank you Gary, it's been a pleasure.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

 

 


This podcast is a part of the series HIV Frontlines. To subscribe to this series, click here.

 

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This article was provided by TheBody.com. It is a part of the publication HIV Frontlines.

See Also
TheBody.com's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More Views on HIV Prevention in the African-American Community


Reader Comments:

Comment by: Anonymous Sat., May. 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm EDT
I'm positive with a cd4 count Of 594 of which I had it after taking arvs but now that I'm pregnant I want to do abortion is it risky or not
?
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Comment by: Kid Pizaaz (Chicago, Il) Tue., Jul. 17, 2012 at 3:18 am EDT
Poverty! Ignorance! Willful stupidity do indeed, play a big part in this tragedy, but, the problem that nobody discusses or admit to is that those not afflicted by HIV will not, cannot, in their eyes, must not show any awareness or concern! Now, if you are Gay and Black with HIV!! Man! You can kiss your Afro-American Rear End Adios!
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