Race Matters: Homeless, Poor Black And Hispanic Gay Men Are The Majority In America’s HIV Epidemic

- By Bossip Staff

Poor Black And Hispanic Gay Men Are Majority USA HIV Epidemic

Despite taking less risks than whites, poor black and Hispanic gay men are the face of AIDS/HIV.

According to NY Times:

The AIDS epidemic in America is rapidly becoming concentrated among poor, young black and Hispanic men who have sex with men. Despite years of progress in preventing and treating H.I.V. in the middle class, the number of new infections nationwide remains stubbornly stuck at 50,000 a year — more and more of them in these men, who make up less than 1 percent of the population.

Giselle, a homeless 23-year-old transgender woman with cafe-au-lait skin, could be called the new face of the epidemic. “I tested positive about a year ago,” said Giselle, who was born male but now has a girlish hair spout, wears a T-shirt tight across a feminine chest and identifies herself as a woman. “I don’t know how, exactly. I was homeless. I was escorting. I’ve been raped.”

“Yes, I use condoms,” she added. “But I’m not going to lie. I slip sometimes. Trust me — everyone here who says, ‘I always use condoms’? They don’t always.” Besides transgender people like Giselle, the affected group includes men who are openly gay, secretly gay or bisexual, and those who consider themselves heterosexual but have had sex with men, willingly or unwillingly, in shelters or prison or for money. (Most of those interviewed for this article spoke on the condition that only their first names be used.)

Nationally, 25 percent of new infections are in black and Hispanic men, and in New York City it is 45 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the city’s health department.

Nationally, when only men under 25 infected through gay sex are counted, 80 percent are black or Hispanic — even though they engage in less high-risk behavior than their white peers. Kwame, a 20-year-old from Philadelphia, said that on his first day wandering around New York last year, he was propositioned by an older homeless man and by an older transgender person. The homeless man later admitted that he was infected, and added: “If you sit here long enough, you’re going to get some propositions — and that’s where you’re going to sleep tonight. It happened to me, and it’s going to happen to you.” Kwame said he had sex that night — with a man he met at a gay services center, where he had gone in search of emergency housing. “I wore a condom,” he said. “I did it sort of out of guilt, or pity. It’s how I was raised. I didn’t want him to think I thought less of him. Also, I needed someplace to stay.”

According to a major C.D.C.-led study, a male-male sex act for a young black American is eight times as likely to end in H.I.V. infection as it is for his white peers. That is true even though, on average, black youths in the study took fewer risks than their white peers: they had fewer partners, engaged in fewer acts of sex while drunk or high, and used condoms more often.

They had other risk factors. Lacking health insurance, they were less likely to have seen doctors regularly and more likely to have syphilis, which creates a path for H.I.V. Few black political or religious leaders talk regularly about the problem — though there are exceptions, including Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Oakland, Calif., and the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Ms. Lee and several other congresswomen publicly take annual H.I.V. tests. Few men in the Congressional Black Caucus agree to join them, one of her aides said.

Dr. Butts has endorsed home H.I.V. tests from the pulpit and exhorted his congregants to accept gay relatives, but many black clergy members are far less accepting; some have fought same-sex marriage ballot measures.

Many programs have been proposed and tested, including financial incentives: paying parents who accept their gay sons to meet with parents who reject theirs; paying men who bring in friends for H.I.V. tests; and paying older black men to give cooking lessons and safe-sex advice to younger ones. But none have been widely adopted.

At a recent GMHC forum on why its programs for young black men were being cut, Janet Weinberg, the agency’s acting chief executive, said the epidemic was in some ways still where it was 30 years ago. “We have the tools to end it,” she said, “except for the government’s indifference.”

Yikes! Hopefully those tools can get put into action sometime in the very near future.


Read article in its entirety HERE.

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