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.