HIV Rates in Southern, Black, Queer Men Is a Big Problem

Perceived Progress & Real Stagnation

I turn on my TV to a large network and discover an advertisement for PReP on the screen. A real-life ad on a network that isn't Logo about HIV prevention using a method aside from (but hopefully in addition to) a condom. Granted, Gilead Science (the makers of the drug Truvada that the ad is for) stand to make a ton of money if they can get more people on PReP. But, it's still a big part of queer life that we rarely see on TV: sex.

The ad even stars a man of color as they try and promote using diversity. That's great, and I'm still all for promotion of solutions to the spread of HIV. But, there are some sad facts you have to deal with when thinking about MSM (the clinical term for men that have sex with men) and intersectionality.

“Although black MSM received 6 percent of the HIV tests provided, they accounted for 36 percent of the new diagnoses in non–healthcare facilities,” the study reveals.

What's worse is that the CDC predicts that 1 in every 2 black MSM will become infected with HIV at some point in their life. That's the same chances a person has of correctly calling a coin flip. If you get it wrong, you end up with a lifelong struggle that—while things are getting better—stays with you until the end.

To put that rate for black men into perspective: at present, a white gay man in the US has a 1 in 11 chance of being HIV positive.


"Although black (men who have sex with men, or MSM) received 6 percent of the HIV tests provided, they accounted for 36 percent of the new diagnoses in non–health care facilities."


“We forget that there were black people suffering and dying at the very beginning as well. So we became an afterthought even from the beginning.”Tori Cooper

Shining a light, even without the funds.

Projects have been launched over the years to target Black MSM HIV prevention. Recently, The Guardian made a great mini-doc about the problems faced by black gay men in Atlanta (see it above).

In the video, 25 year old Daryon McCurdy explains his experience. “I was feeling very sick” says McCurdy, “so I went to the doctor and they said, ‘Okay, you have gonorrhea and acute HIV.’ I was so shocked.”

Why the discrepencies? It may trace back to money. While the CD celebrated HIV prevention publicaly, they have pulls grant funds from organizations like AID Atlanta over the last year. There is some hope with the new head of the CDC having a closer relationship to HIV/AIDS prevention, but you can' never really tell.

We do know, however, that less money is spent per patient (on average) when they are southern, black, MSM than the national average. This needs to change and fast.

In August, the AJC released a multimedia project to try and highlight this epidemic. the more light that can be shown on the HIV by organizations like the AJC and The Guardian, the better. Perhaps, money will follow public perception.

A Stigma I Can't Know

In a way, white queer men can sympathize with our brethren of color if our families are incredibly religious. My own church denied me sacrament recently on the basis of my "promoting this lifestyle." (More on that another time, perhaps.)

There is no possible way, however, for me to attempt to convey the emotion involved when your entire cultural identity is built on machismo or black masculinity like it is in the African-American and Latino communities. This is on top of the simple statistics of the matter. The trend in black communities is for their religion to over-rule the politics on a matter. This can be correlated with the trend-over-time of self-reporting of one's LGBTQ status.

Among racial and ethnic minorities, the largest increases since 2012 in LGBT identification occurred among Asians (3.5% to 4.9%) and Hispanics (4.3% to 5.4%). Among whites, the comparable figures are 3.2% to 3.6%. Black Americans showed only a slight increase from 4.4% to 4.6%, and among "other" racial and ethnic groups, the increase was from 6.0% to 6.3%.Gallup

While this needs to be further studied, the opinion of Black Americans on LGBTQ issues and identification of Black Americans as LGBTQ showing the slowest increases when compared to other groups, points to a need to target the community in ways that aren't currently the ones that work on your average white gay.


"[We] had to come to terms with the reality of sexual behavior and not just with what we say we’re saying, but what we were doing — how to accept and recognize homosexuality."—Duncan Teague