On April 5, the New York Times ran a front-page article with theheadline, “AIDS Fears Grow for Black Women.” The articlewas on what has become known as the “down low”phenomenon, a lifestyle choice amongst Black men who choose to livetheir life as heterosexual men, but have secret sexualrelationships with other men behind their partners back. As aresult, there is an increase in Black women who are becomingaffected with H.I.V.
According to the government studies mentioned in the article,”a Black woman was 23 times more likely to be infected withAIDS than was a White woman, and Black women accounted for 71.9percent of new H.I.V. cases in women from 1999 to 2002.” Thearticle went on to cite several other alarming studies by healthorganizations, all of which said that majority of the AIDS casesfound in Black women were through heterosexual sex.
The most alarming of all statistics mentioned was included in astudy done in February of Black students from 37 colleges in NorthCarolina. Among 84 men, the majority was infected through sex withother men, but a third reported they had sex with both women andmen.
Reading the article, it was obvious to me that the very epidemicthat is slowly killing our people is, to some degree, our ownfault. I know there are a lot of other factors that we mustconsider when trying to answer the who, what, where, when, andwhy’s of this plague, but if we take a look at our attitudes as apeople, we can begin to reverse the outcome.
What I mean is changing the attitude of our culture. Homosexualactivity has been viewed by the Black community as the elephant inthe room that nobody wants to talk about – and with good reason.Historically, the church is the base of most Black socialinstitutions and in most Christian doctrines (the exception beinggay churches, which are slowly becoming commonplace in the UnitedStates.), homosexual activity of any kind, whether it is in thecloset or out in the open, is a sin.
But however disgusting or morally wrong we think it is, a tolerancemust be built for this sort of behavior in our community. If wedon’t, then our Black women will continue to be infected. It’s notthe only way to solve the problem, but as we can see in NorthCarolina, it would probably prevent a third of the cases.
When prominent pillars of the Black community like Rev. GregoryDaniels say, “If the K.K.K. opposes gay marriage, I would ridewith them,” to a group of Black Baptist ministers in Chicago,it shakes the security Black men have in their sexuality. Even ifyou think Black men who engage themselves in homosexual activityneed to be helped, it can’t be done if they don’t feel comfortabletalking about it.
The fact of the matter is even men who are staunch heterosexualsare affected by the men who are not and choose not to say anything.It used to be that if I wanted to know about my partner’s sexualhistory, I might have only had to worry about a certain number ofguys, and any freaky fetishes she might have had. But now, when Iread articles such as the one I saw in the Times, I have to worryabout the sexual past of those men who were involved in my women’ssexual past. And that’s a shot in the dark.
Black men do not want to come out, but they must, and if they do,we must treat them with dignity and respect. We don’t have to lovethem, but they shouldn’t be persecuted for their choice inlifestyle. It has been said that the greatest trick the Devil everplayed, was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. Well, if theDevil is Black men who choose to have sex with other men, then wemust fight the Devil to save our Black women.
Jozen Cummings is a senior and former editor at The Hilltop. Hewants it to be known that he has no secrets and loves his blackwoman. Comments on this article can be sent firstname.lastname@example.org