Although the number of new HIV cases among black women has remained stable over the past few years, the number of cases linked to heterosexual sex among black women has increased. Some observers say that the increase in the number of HIV cases linked to heterosexual sex among black women stems from men on the "down low" -- black men who have sex with men but do not mention their male relationships to their female sex partners, friends or family members (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/5). Author J.L. King has written a book called "On the Down Low" about the phenomenon (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/16). Two opinion pieces recently responded to the book. Summaries of the pieces appear below:
Gregory Kane, Baltimore Sun: The "down low" phenomenon is "all that black women have been talking about since King addressed the subject" on a recent episode of the syndicated "Oprah Winfrey Show," columnist Kane writes in a Sun opinion piece. However, although the phenomenon has been "ballyhooed ... the fact remains that 40% of all men don't become HIV-positive through sex with other men," Kane says, noting that 25% of black men become infected through injection drug use and 15% contract HIV through heterosexual sex. "If anything comes out of this 'down low' business, it might be this: Sex exclusively with a monogamous, male-female marriage might start to look darned good again," Kane concludes (Kane, Baltimore Sun, 6/2).
Roni Rabin, Long Island Newsday: King's book is one that "girlfriends have got to read" because "bisexual men have been a bridge carrying HIV from the gay community to straight women," Newsday columnist Rabin writes in an opinion piece. King's story "helps explain why women of color are being infected with HIV in record numbers," Rabin says, adding that in New York City, "only 6.5% of HIV-positive women are white -- 66% are African American and 26% are Latina." The book is "likely to scare the heck out of women, black and white," which is just what King says he wants, Rabin says, concluding with a quote from King: "Don't just walk into a relationship thinking this man is everything he should be, based on his status, his money, his home, his friends. ... You've got to look at every man as if he's bisexual or HIV-positive, and you won't be as trusting" (Rabin, Long Island Newsday, 6/1).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.