Monday, August 28, 2006

Out of Control: AIDS in Black America

After watching ABC's special edition of Primetime last Thursday, "Out of Control: AIDS in Black America," I knew I had to write about it. If you missed it, you can click on this link to watch segments of it that have been posted on YouTube.com:

You can also click on this link to view information about the segment from ABC's website:

To start, black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are at the highest risk of contracting HIV. To many of us, this is not news -- we've known this for years. But to see it brought to the national spotlight, with the depth of information that was revealed, was really poignant for me.

The segment tried to dissect the reasons why black women are at such high risk, highlighting several possibilities: the rates at which HIV is contracted in the prisons; the down-low ("DL") phenomenon; and a culture that idolizes misogyny. It also called out our religious leaders, Jesse Jackson and T.D. Jakes in particular, questioning them about why this discussion is not being had in the black church, considering that the church is the center of the black community; as well as pointing out how our stars (like Beyonce) go to Africa to raise awareness about AIDS over there, but don't do anything to address the issue at home.

Although there are many breakout discussions that could be had on the Primetime special, I specifically want to address the whole D.L. phenomenon.

I don't know about anyone else, but the D.L. is a topic that comes up OFTEN in my conversations with friends. Yes, we are all disgusted that some men choose the D.L. lifestyle -- not because they are gay, but because they put the health of their girlfriends and wives at risk. And yes, none of us understands how D.L. men can have sex with other men, and not consider themselves gay -- just because they give and don't receive. But what we don't talk about, and what was discussed in the Primetime special, is WHY D.L. men are on the D.L. in the first place.

As was discussed in the segment, and mentioned above, the black church is, and has been, the center of our communities. Because most churches teach that homosexuality is a sin, black folks are some of the most homophobic people in this country. As a result, being gay in the black community is not okay. We (not me personally, but "we" as a community) teach our kids that homosexuality is wrong and that God wants those who have homosexual desires to suppress them. But in reality, people who have a natural affinity cannot suppress those feelings or desires. They may be able to hide them for a period of time, but they can't flat out suppress them and act like they don't exist. (Just take a look at Donnie McClurkin, you can't tell me that he isn't gay!!!)

To me, this attempted suppression results in the D.L. phenomenon. Because our men are taught that it is wrong to be gay, they openly live heterosexual lives while they secretly sleep with other men. Several D.L. men interviewed by Primetime stated that they contracted HIV through their D.L. lifestyle, and that they transmitted the virus to their wives and girlfriends.

I think the black community needs to face the fact that some people are just gay -- whether you think it is wrong or not is immaterial. Homosexuality is NOT going away! Our women are under fire, and our homophobic beliefs are contributing to the problem! As long as we continue to teach our children that homosexuality is wrong, men will continue to live on the D.L., and will continue exposing their wives and girlfriends to HIV and other health risks.

--Notta

25 comments:

The Thinking Black Man said...

Hey Notta-

We had a big discussion in my office last year about Brothers on the DL. When asked why I [a straight guy] thought so many Brothers were on the DL. I proposed a theory that went like this: Since slavery times, Black men had little control or power over anything. Anything except for sex. I suggested that this need for control of 'something' lead many Black men to just strive for nothing more than sexual conquest. In some, weaker men, this desire for conquest morphed from a perceived control over women to an eventual desire to control men.

Okay - I'm the first to admit that that may be a thin theory, but I wanted to just put it out there.

I saw that ABC special and I was so angry at these men, pissin' and moanin' about, "Who can we tell about our desires to be with men?" Nobody, so we just go back home and sleep with our women. I wanted to kick all of their asses! At that very moment, I turned to my wife and said, "Just incase you're wondering, I have never had sex with a man and I have never had the desire to sex with a man." She rolled her eys at me, but watching these murderers {because that's what they are] deny what they are doing, I felt like I had to make that point clear to her.

These guys want to know who they can talk to - they should start by talking to the wives and girlfriends!!! Step up and be men and take responsibility for their actions - be men and save the lives of their women. If you want [or choose] to be gay, then be gay. If you choose to have unprotected sex with men, then DON'T go do the same thing to your women!!!

Just thinking about that insanity has me angry and has my thoughts all over the place. Basically, I don't have a problem if these men want to be gay - but don't be gay and going bare-back-broke-back after work and then coming home and trying to put your lady's heels on the ceiling with the same thing you were giving Kevin two hours earlier.

Geez - that sounds nasty...

Anonymous said...

Notta,

I'd like to point out that the DL phenomenon is not new. The act of hiding one's orientation is something that black men...and black women have been doing for quite some time.

As long as the black community and the black church continues to vilifiy those who are gay, there will be people who will hide their true identities. Homophobia and fear of expulsion from family and friends are the main reasons why people hide their sexual orientation and until these issues are addressed and eradicated, unwitting black women will continue to be at risk for contracting HIV from men who sleep with men.

That said, what can women do? First, women must openly discuss the subject of sexuality with their men BEFORE entering physical relationships with them. Single women MUST insist on using condoms every time. Single and married women MUST be mindful of their man's activities and cannot be afraid or passive about inquiring about their man's actions and behaviors that don't seem quite right. There are often signs...and if you notice something...call it out!

Married women face different circumstances because they often do not use condoms, rather they use other contraceptive methods. Thus, they must be aware of their husbands and really know what is going on with them; especially if they suspect that he is cheating. The bottom line is, women must stop being oblivious.

Most women are not as clueless as we would like to think. There may be a few women who can honestly say that they didnt know their man was stepping out with other men... but many women know and choose denial over the truth. They had an inkling that something "wasn't quite right," but they did not follow-up or ask questions to confirm for fear of losing their man or impugning/questioning his "manhood."

AIDS is a life or death matter, and women must take steps to protect themselves...because it is clear that Black Leadership and the black church has dropped the ball on this issue.

The black church is so busy railing against the gay lifestyle...that it doesn't even realize that a significant amount of its congregation, (black women) is at risk. This kind of reminds me of the church railing against sex before marriage...while at the same time teenage pregnancy was rising rising rising.

Wake Up Black Church...kids are having sex... and men are sleeping with men. Now how do you intend to protect your straight female congregation? By stuffing more fire and brimstone preaching down their throats? Give me a break!

In closing...sistahs must ask the hard questions and be prepared for the hard answers. One thing is for sure, I would rather our sistahs know what is up with their men up front...rather than after-the-fact.

IndySage

ronnie brown said...

First of all, homosexuality is as old as man...MORAL opposition to homosexuality just as long...and men and women living double lives, the same.

What has changed is society's push to eliminate the moral opposition to homosexuality...so now you have men trying to justify passing HIV to their wife or girlfriend because the community doesn't approve of men having sex with other men!

I agree with Thinking Black Man, Your sex life is your business, and it's your responsibility not to put any woman at risk; especially without their knowledge! Opposition to homosexuality on moral grounds will NEVER go away; we're more likely to suffer a direct hit by Hayley's Comet!

Anonymous said...

Ok, I agree with you that homosexuality isn't going anywhere. God does indeed love everyone. But we as mere human beings CAN NOT judge God himself. I am referencing your comment about Donnie McClurkin.Who are you to say what God has and has not done in his life? Why would you say that? Because he's effeminate? I'm assuming you do not know the history or the reason Donnie was gay in the first place? (by the way this reason accounts for a good percentage of gay men and women today) I 100% believe that God has the power to change your life, especially when that spirit was never inside from the beginning. To make a statement that Donnie McClurkin is still gay just tell us that you think God can change only certain aspects of our lives but he's powerful enough to do it all.

VRB said...

Prison sex and the DL are spreading AIDS, but let us not forget that AIDS cans be spread by heterosexual sex. It may be harder to contract, but along with other STDS it easier that we think. If a wife even thought there was an affair with a womam, the husband should be called out. If you focus too much about on homosexuality, the other risk factors could be totally ignored. This also allows for myths to replace facts. Like the only way to catch HIV is to have anal sex.

I still had to think seriously, whether to take a blood transfusion (I was not in immediate danger). The probability was extremely low, but ...

beyourowndiva said...

There are two issues. One that America does not accept homosexuality forcing the DL and that AIDS comes from Gays. The first I agree with the Second I do not.

My Uncle was gay and he died of complications with HIV at age 60. I write that he is gay with caution because my family never spoke about it. He always portrayed himself as heterosexual. He was void of any feminine traits but I NEVER saw him with a woman. It just went unspoken that he was not straight.

He never had children. I was like his child. I still adore him.

Becaue of our relationship I feel sad that such a wonderful man had to live his life in a compromised way. I would’ve enjoyed sharing his "real" life with him openly. I hate that he felt that he had to hide.

He was a tall, masculine & handsome well built black man born in 1940. I don't feel that Black-America was ready for a strong gay black man.

He was focused on Civil Rights, fighting in Vietnam & building his business, NOT being gay. He SAT at the front of the bus and he ATE at the lunch counter because he fought! His authority would have been compromised if he were openly gay. He would have been viewed as a "fag" and dismissed.

Black men live on the DL. Because society views gay men as weak.

Second,
I don’t believe he contracted AIDS from being gay. He contracted it from unprotected sex.

What is being said here is that the only way you'll get AIDS is if your partner is on the DL. Any partner can give you AIDS. People are dying from a false sense of security that being heterosexual shields you from AIDS. HIV comes from non-protected sex, period!

We are missing out on great people who contribute to our society AND dying from a false sense of security. Black people are the worst when it comes to homophobia and we are paying the biggest price. GET OVER IT! GET SOME CONDOMS!

Notta Golddigger said...

Of course I agree that HIV can be contracted via heterosexual sex. Like I told my sister earlier today, I could write 4 or 5 separate entries strictly dealing with the topics addressed in the Primetime segment; however, I purposely focused only on one in an attempt to limit the length of my entry. And yes, we ALL need to practice safe sex -- which of course will limit the spread of the virus. But the fact remains that homosexual sex is the number one way to contract HIV. (See the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/basic.htm#exposure.) It is just easier to transmit HIV through anal sex.

In response to anonymous' comments about Donnie McClurkin -- we obviously have differing views about homosexuality. Sure, I know why Donnie McClurkin claims to have been gay -- because his uncle allegedly molested him. But in my OPINION, we are born with our sexual orientation, and no matter how hard you try, you can't suppress those feelings. Heterosexuals are not taught to be heterosexual, its just comes naturally to us. So why we would we apply a different standard to homosexuals? Your comment that molestation "accounts for a good percentage of gay men and women today," is a completely arbitrary and unsubstantiated statement. Additionally, Mr. McClurkin's current efforts of speaking to adolescent boys and telling them that homosexuality is something they can overcome, only confuses these boys even further, and will further contribute to the down low problem.

ronnie brown said...

Notta,
Being on the "down low" is a matter of ACCEPTANCE from others, it's not a license to abidcate one's responsibility to not allow your sexual activity to put others at risk.

Notta Golddigger said...

ronnie brown - I think you've misunderstood what I am saying. Trust me, I'm not at all making excuses for the promiscuous behavior of down low men. They definitely need to take accountability for having unprotected sex with other men, and then turning around and having unprotected sex with their wives or girlfriends.

The whole point of my entry is to convey the idea that if the black community were more accepting of gay people, whether or not we agree with it, then perhaps the D.L. would not be such a big problem in our community, and maybe as a result, black women would not be the most at risk group of people in danger of contracting HIV.

--Notta

ronnie brown said...

Notta,
I think we've been accepting gay people for many a moon now. They are our family members, fellow church goers, etc. Granted, it was "don't ask, won't tell", but we co-existed. But these days it's different. Gays want social sanction now...marriage, adopting children, the CIVIL RIGHT to be homosexual...and if anyone doesn't agree, they are branded a "homophobe". Like i said, if gay men and women are waiting for the day when there will be a universal acceptance of homosexuality among Black folk, they will be waiting a looooong time. And just for the record, i don't speak on this subject lightly; i lost a brother and uncle to AIDS back in the mid-90's...

You see, in the grand scheme of things, acceptance is subject to change at any time; depending on the social climate. You're a legal eagle, if a man said he murdered his neighbor because he wasn't "accepting" of his particular lifestyle, you'd have him facing arraignment before he could take his next blink.

Men having sex with other men then callously infecting their female partners in the name of not being "accepted"?

not no...hell no!

VRB said...

Notta,
When looking at those stats at CDC, what is most disturbing is the number of black children with AIDS. I wonder if they are going to taught how to deal with their sexuality and responsibility if they survive.

I guess what I am getting at, is that we have to learn to be honest and be more open about AIDS, to get tested and stop blaming the lifestyle. We can not have a higher percentage of gay males in our population than any other group, but we have a higher percentage of transmission. Being false about any sexual activity and drug use is putting our society in the throws of this epidemic. I think we particularly need to be open about sexuality. We seem to have dual personalities, when it comes to this subject. It is either shrouded in moral terms or exposed in its extremes in some hip hop lyrics. Neither is the conversation we need to have.

Notta Golddigger said...

Agreed VRB. Good points.

--Notta

ronnie brown said...

VRB,
I don't understand. Isn't being false about "any sexual activity and drug use" a moral issue? Why is it a conversation we need not have? Whether people approve or disapprove of homosexuality is not the primary issue. It's the choices that people make in regard to their sexuality or IV drug use that's contributing to the explosion of AIDS in our community.

VRB said...

Ronnie brown,
There are moral ramification in decisions to have sex and I think the person should consider these, but that is not what I meant. I think we deal in our world as if we don't have sex. We don't talk about the dynamics. It sort of telling someone to just say no, rather than having them understand why they have a choice to say no. Then there is that question just what is sex? Are many of us as dumb as Clinton? I know the hip hop world would want us all to believe we are born sexually savy, but that's not true. Don't count on the streets giving young people the right information. I was shocked to find out that forty years later, some of the same myths about getting prenant were still abound. This is why we need to have a new conversation.

Curry said...

I still don't buy in to the idea that black men are on the DL because of the intolerance to gays in the black community. That’s just too complex for it govern behavior. In my opinion it’s as basic as sex itself; these men like other men, period. They also like women. Irresponsibility steps in and messes up EVERYTHING for everyone. As sick as that is, I really believe it’s just that simple.

Most major cities (well, some) have entire communities that are comprised of predominantly gay men. If it’s acceptance that they’re looking for, there are plenty of places to find it.

Anonymous said...

Curry,

Your last comment rings of the intolerance shown by white people toward blacks in the civil rights era. Gays...like blacks, latinos, and anyone else for that matter, should be able to live whereever they choose and if people can't accept the gay "lifestyle" (whatever that means) then they should at least excersize tolerance and civility.

The notion that gays should live in gay communities if they are looking for acceptance is remarkably similar to the argument offered by white people in response to intolerant acts...such as cross burnings..."if blacks want acceptance, then they should live amonst their own in their own communities."

As to your first comment, you don't have to buy that the DL in the black community is caused in part by intolerance in the community,but I would point out that there are just as many white men on the DL as blacks...if not more. So why aren't white women contracting HIV from their men at similar rates? HMMMMMM

ronnie brown said...

are you implying that there are none in the white community who express a opposition to homosexuality?...even still, tolerance and responsible sexual behavior are two SEPARATE issues. I can disagree with you or despise you, but it's against the law for me to bring harm to your person or property because of it.

"intolerance" as a reason for passing HIV to your female partner???...are you kidding?!!!

Notta Golddigger said...

I don't think anyone is implying that intolerance of homosexuals is a reason for passing HIV to a female partner. I think the point that is trying to be conveyed is that intolerance of homosexuals plays a factor in the D.L. phenomenon, which in turn, is putting black women at risk. Of course intolerance is not the exclusive factor; there are many other factors -- like failing to have safe sex -- that also factor into the spread of HIV among black women.

The fact remains that black women are at the highest risk of contracting HIV, and are contracting the virus from black men. We can argue all day about whether you think the D.L. and the reasons that men claim to be on the D.L. are bull$#!%, but it still doesn't address the problem or the solution.

--Notta

Curry said...

The point I am attempting to make is that if a man wants to sleep with another man, so be it. BUT if you’re going to use social intolerance in the black community as a reason to hide your desires while continuing to sleep with women, knowingly putting them at risk, then you should be a part of a community & lifestyle that will allow you to live freely without having to creep. I don’t mean that gays should be segregated to their own communities. What I mean is that if the men who feel compelled to live a lie because of what the people around them might say & think, then they should associate themselves with people who share the same interest. In a perfect world this would remove the need to live two lives and go about spreading HIV and other diseases irresponsibly and carelessly. To even HINT that ‘because black folks ain’t woke up’ yet & have been slow to except the gay lifestyle as an excuse to recklessly kill black women & men is ridiculous.

I agree with anonymous point that “… if people can't accept the gay "lifestyle" (whatever that means) then they should at least exercise tolerance and civility.” This is absolutely true, however to contrast your statement about the civil rights era. Men on the DL spreading HIV to unsuspecting women is not a civil rights issue. Most humans know that it’s wrong to hurt someone based on their race, sex, religion, blah, blah… Again, if the men who feel compelled to live a lie because of what the people around them might say & think, then they should associate themselves with people who share the same interest thus eliminating the need to lie about who you are & you’re sleeping with. Being gay is not the issue; it’s the lives that are destroyed because of the frivolous sexual behavior.

ronnie brown said...

Curry...well said.



Notta,
Let me put a question to you. If Mr. Potential Boyfriend Material told you he also likes sex with men, would you invite him to lunch or kick him to the curb with a quickness?

I would wager that most women would consider that a "red flag" and tell Mr. Man to keep it movin'...

Down Low behavior is a matter of choice, responsible sexual behavior is a matter of choice...no one is obligated to embrace homosexuality as standard sexual practice...and no man who engages in sex with other men is absolved from allowing potential female partners informed consent.

Notta Golddigger said...

ronnie brown - Again, you are misinterpreting what I said. I've already said several times that D.L. men have a responsibility to protect themselves and their partners from disease. No one is arguing against that. I'll say it one more time in hopes that you will finally understand it-- the intolerance and unacceptability that the black community demonstrates against homosexuals, particularly against black gay men, contributes to down low behavior, which is contributing to the rise of HIV in black women.

Your comment that "no one is obligated to embrace homosexuality as standard sexual practice" resounds of ignorance. If you have heterosexual desires it would be abnormal for you to engage in homosexual activities, right? So why is the standard different for people who are born with homosexual desires? If you are born with homosexual desires, then I would argue that yes, you are "obligated to embrace homosexuality as standard sexual practice."

I urge you to go back to my original entry and re-read it. From the beginning, I said that the Primetime special addressed several factors that contribute to the rise of HIV in black women; but for purposes of my entry, I decided to focus on the D.L.

--Notta

ronnie brown said...

Notta, i hope you don't think i'm just being contrary...i'm not in disagreement with you. I just think we're looking at the issue from two different perspectives. My comment about people not being obligated to embrace homosexuality is based upon the fact that a great number of people consider homosexual desire a MORAL issue; so acceptance in that regard will not be forthcoming...you can hardly consider that ignorant. People ARE split on the issue...I just think it's wrong for homosexual men to use rejection by the general community as an excuse to pass HIV to their unsuspecting female partners.

ljh1999 said...

I'm sorry I'm so late in reading this last entry. I've enjoyed reading some of the comments already made, and would like to interject a few thoughts of my own. I hope I don't repeat.

1. The DL phenomenon has many factors that contribute to it, but in the end it is one person being dishonest about who they are. There are reasons that people can give behind every lie, but a lie is a lie. Just as criminals are ultimately held personally responsible for their crimes despite the influences that may have led them to commit their crimes. Men on the DL must be held personally responsible.

2. We cannot implicate "the black church" in the proliferation of the DL mentality based on the activities and comments of a few high profile preachers. There are many pastors in the DC area, mine included, who preach the Bible's views of sexual sin, as well as the practical lessons of safe sex. It's not contradictory. It's ministering to the needs of the people.

3. Notta, you did take a pass on Ronnie Brown's question about your response to a brother trying step to you being up front about liking dudes. I'm just sayin...

4. Is anyone concerned about this attack on the black church? It seems that a lot of blame is being placed on an institution that is doing more than the schools, the government or the media to stem the tide of AIDS in our community.

Are black churches perfect? No. Is there more that could be done by those in ministry? Sure. But to attack the black church as being complicit in the proliferation of the DL phenomenon is irresponsible.

Why not address the lack of effort by the Federal and state governments to bring down the infection rates in our prisons? There is hard data to support their part in the spread of HIV. Is there any credible data linking the lack of HIV discussion in the church to the HIV infection rate of people who have attended those churches?

I think that the media is using this rise in the HIV infection rate in the black community to place the focus on the black community and not the other supposedly complicit parties or circumstances. I wish that I knew what it would take to eradicate the spread of AIDS. But until someone comes up with a plan that actually works, we need to hold everyone accountable. Churches, politicians, schools, parents, recording artists, actors, etc. We all need to become more active and hold ourselves accountable to stop the spread of this disease.

Notta Golddigger said...

To address ronnie brown's question about "Mr. Potential Boyfriend," and ljh1999's follow up to that -- hell yes I would kick him to the curb!!!! :) Not because he engages in homosexual behavior per se, but because I personally do not want to date someone who sleeps with both men and women. The problem is that many times, those men don't allow women the opportunity to make that decision for themselves. They fear the bigotry and retribution that goes along with being gay, particularly in the black community.

--Notta

Lisa said...

I would just like to address the issue of selfishness versus selflessness. Black men on the DL can rant and rave all they want about how homosexuality is not accepted in our community. Yes, maybe, but what about protection? What about understanding that you are putting someone you claim to have love for at risk because of your desire to be with men? Selflessness is what we need more of in my opinion. Selflessness requires truth. It requires courage and the willingness to face whatever fire you must to keep it real. Personally, I think that black men use the "community" as an excuse to be selfish. I say, wake the hell up, be a man, be honest and come the hell out of the closet and perhaps your courage will bring about the acceptance you long to have.