What You Don’t Know About “The Down Low”: The Media Is Wrong For Blaming Closet Cases On African-American AIDS

- By Bossip Staff

Pay attention! This is important:

Last Tuesday on “The View,” during a conversation about the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, guest host D.L. Hughley attempted to school America on why HIV is so prevalent among African-American women. He said with confidence, “They are getting it from men who are on the down low.”

Watch D.L. speak on the subject under the hood and keep reading to find out why he’s actually talking out the side of his neck

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Both Shepherd and Hughley were actually inaccurate in their attempts to blame the growth of AIDS in the black community on the “down low” phenomenon, according to a recent article by Kellee Turner, editor of an HIV AIDS publication:

Neither one of these comedians-turned-talking heads is an AIDS expert. I think it’s safe to say that if they were asked to name three antiretrovirals sold on the market or tell us what distinguishes HIV from AIDS, there would be awkward silence and an unexpected commercial break.

Had The View actually asked established experts such as the University of California, Los Angeles’ Chandra L. Ford, White House Office of National AIDS Policy’s Gregorio Millett, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Kevin Fenton to come on the show, all of them would have shut down Shepherd & Company.

They would have said that yes, closeted gay black men exist, but contrary to popular belief, the DL is not a major force in the rise of HIV infections among black women in this country. And to substantiate this, they probably would have cited the mounds of data and research findings from the numerous studies they have conducted over the years.

They might have even shed some light on what really fuels HIV: people having unprotected vaginal and anal sex with multiple partners or even one partner; high rates of incarceration that take men out of the mating pool and create a system of women sharing the same man; intravenous drug use that accounts for 20 percent of all HIV infections among black women; other untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as herpes and gonorrhea, which make people more vulnerable to contracting HIV once exposed to the virus; and people having unprotected sex, unaware that they are positive, who are going untreated while highly infectious.

Most important, any one of these experts would have said that there are heterosexual black men who have HIV, and HIV-positive women who pass the virus to men, and everyone needs to get tested.

Perhaps the hard facts just weren’t sensational enough for “The View.”

Unfortunately, AIDS-related misinformation is not just relegated to silly morning talk shows. Last October, CNN, which bills itself as America’s most trusted news source, ran a segment in its Black Men in the Age of Obama special about gay and bisexual black men.

Instead of discussing pertinent issues that gay and bisexual black men in this country face, CNN anchor Don Lemon, Essence Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt-Murray and a panel of ostensibly straight black men (none of whom possessed HIV or LGBT expertise) used the time to talk about how the down low is killing black women. Once again, there was no proof to back up these claims, just regurgitated homophobic hoopla being passed off as news. No bias, no bull? Yeah, right.

Thanks to J.L. King and Oprah, the breakdown of Terry McMillan’s mess of a marriage, countless newspaper and magazine articles, that Law & Order: SVU episode and our own homophobia, the threat of the down-low man–our generation’s brutal black buck–has been branded onto our cultural imagination and ingrained in our vernacular.

Looking at how AIDS is covered in the media, what are folks really learning? Black women are “learning” that if their man is not “suspect,” then condoms are not really a necessity. Straight black men are “learning” that this disease has nothing to do with them because they are not gay. Meanwhile, the two are having unprotected sex with each other while we act brand new about how and why this disease is flourishing in our community.

If we’ve learned anything from Hughley’s and Shepherd’s erroneous comments, it’s that despite the fact that the information is out there and easily accessible, the media and the average American don’t know what they need to know about HIV (and perhaps they don’t want to). But as we enter the third decade of this epidemic, we don’t have the luxury to continue to be this ignorant. Somehow that knowledge gap needs to be closed. There are just too many lives at stake for it not to be.

This is a big deal people! The media — has been pumping misinformation to our community about the real forces at work behind the spread of HIV and AIDS among Blacks. The real question is whether it’s been done “accidentally” or if there are actually people who want Blacks to believe the “down low” hype and keep having unprotected sex with partners they “know” are heterosexual in order to continue the spread.

Protect yourselves and get tested! Life is precious.

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  • Jameslyn

    None of that matters.

    PROTECT YOURSELF and the conversation won’t matter.

  • anewme

    Yeah..thanks for the visual.

  • Dead Prez


  • LuvN_Life

    @Jameslyn . . .
    PROTECT YOURSELF and the conversation won’t matter

    Exactly,I agree with you 100%!”

  • Life44

    The Down Low is in every community no matter what the race is.

  • that damn sh#$ disturber

    fact is most men (of ANY race) do not go to the doctor unless something is broken. most women do because of pregnancy, birth control, etc. so we get checked out on a regular basis and the men that are with us A.S.S.ume “well your results are negative, so i must be ok too” maybe those tests might be misdiagnosed, or many false negatives leading to that one positive, or maybe you might have a woman who is just hateful and suspects you are cheating. she finds out she has something and figures it came from you. symptoms don’t always show up instantly. bottom line, go to the doctor and if he has to push that stick up your pee hole then grin and bear it like we do.

  • Jenene

    Wouldn’t the secretive nature of the down low status prevent an accurate account of how many infections actually occur this way?
    For that matter, isn’t it difficult to pinpoint the exact point of infection when you have a population that is sharing partners. Just because someone discovers they’ve been infected that doesn’t say much about when they actually were infected.
    As much information is out there about safe sex, people refuse to continue the practice consistently.

  • Jameslyn

    sorry that “9” should have been a parentheses

  • reuypssp

    Whyyyyyyyyyy so many people are interested in an interracial relationship. black woman want to have fun with white man and black guys want to have fun with white women. There are many sites focusing on this kind of relationships such as ==== B_l_a_c_k_w_h_i_t_e_C_u_p_i_d . c_o_m ===== recommend it here ==== B_l_a_c_k_w_h_i_t_e_C_u_p_i_d . c_o_m ==== 😉

  • mo

    I really have a problem understanding why it is so prevalent in our community. I understand that there is a high rate of black males going off to prisons every year, but other cultures have their share also. Other cultures also have their downlows and drug addicts, so why is it that black women have such a high rate? I think this is probably a fallacy, another way to degrade black women. Sounds like propaganda to me. There are millions of white addicts out there, spreading aids and other diseases and like I said, they have their downlows also, so why. Perhaps, other cultures don’t get tested because they know they have it.
    I’d like to see the actual research and analyze the statistics and find out who they actually used for the research.

  • Martinigal

    I saw that episode of the View. I was disappointed with DL on his misinformation about AIDS in the black community.

    I expect comments like that from Sherri, because she’s “STUPID” in my opinion. She always make stupid comments on most of the topics they discuss.

    During the discussion neither DL or Sherri even bother to correct themselves.

  • Martinigal

    @Nique: You don’t have to be a HOES, GAY, or BLACK to contract HIV/AIDS. Another person who is misinform about HIV/AIDS.

  • Jameslyn

    Radio too!!!

    @ B3 Fearless…

    That comment was like the picture…it could have been kept in the mind…locked away

  • Jameslyn

    @ sholla 21…

    one thing fa sho two fa certain…they do look proud

  • drenk

    work FOR the CDC

  • thesaneone

    Get protected and wrap is up! it’s that simple.

  • B3 Fearless

    Every 1 should go to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) web site and check out the info that they have on the subject.

    There is A LOT of information.

  • sholla21


    one thing fa sho two fa certain…they do look proud

  • B3 Fearless


    Thanks girl! Is that a show on LOGO? I thought it was cancelled.

  • http://urnotpdiddyloser 5'10" AKILLAH RICHARDS

    lets not pretend this epidemic is isolated to homosexuals (out or closet) or men who’ve been incarcerated. there are down low men who’ve never been incarcerated and some STRAIGHT people who think it is a “badge of glory” to sleep with as many people as possible. smh.

  • J

    How do we know it is misinformation? Just because this article says so? NOT!!!!! I’m still going with the DL theory. There is no way that’s not contributing to the problem. Not saying it’s the only factor though.

  • Jameslyn

    @ J…

    I don’t think they were saying it isn’t a problem, just most definitely not the ONLY problem. AIDS doesn’t discriminate just like cancer doesn’t. It is a communicable disease and down low, gay, straight whatever shouldn’t be a determining factor when it comes to your life. PROTECT yourself with information and condoms.

    Also, Herpes and Warts aren’t always visible either.

    If you are a promiscuous person in 2010 you are a stupid person. Not only is it sinful but bad for ya health. Ya body is ya temple. Treat it as such

  • resurrected

    Maybe it is more of a fact that black men are very reckless in there attitudes about protecting there black when they decide to stray no matter who there partners might be. Black men seem to lie to themselves in most when it comes to the way that they treat others. They want to indulge in everything while believing that they have no accountability to other that they hurt or do wrongly. If you want to be with a man then be with a man but don’t lie to a woman and everyone else when it your life that you want to change. Even professional black men lie to there families putting them all in danger for such a selfish reason.. Don’t hold on to us if that is where you want to be if you are going to jump out there then be a man and jump out there but at least have the decency to care for other people who may not accept or want to be apart of that life style with you…

  • anon

    Oprah and J.L. King helped turn this misinformation into fact and now millions of black people believe this nonsense.

  • Mega

    I just believe someone somewhere, if you back track all HIV/AIDs infections, you will find a gay man in the chain somewhere. Who gave it to woman, who gave it to a hetero man, etc…

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