Today is World AIDS Day, and if #BlackLivesMatter, then all black people need to educate themselves about AIDS/HIV: “African-Americans receive more AIDS diagnoses and experience more HIV-related deaths than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.” Black people are infected at a rate that is eight times higher than any other population in the US. This is not a joke. Black lives do matter, and black people can’t afford to continue to ignore this crisis.
This issue concerns us all, but it’s especially appalling to think about how disproportionately affected gay and bisexual black men are when it comes to AIDS/HIV. According to the CDC, between 2008 and 2010, gay and bisexual black men accounted for three quarters of the country’s new HIV infections every year, despite the fact that this group represents a mere 2% of the entire US population. Sure, reducing the risk of new infections should be as easy as wearing condoms (and using clean needles), but we all know things are more complicated than that.
This is not a joke. Black lives do matter, and black people can’t afford to continue to ignore this crisis.
The stigma that surrounds homosexuality in the black community in America, which is traditionally very religious, is powerful. (Just ask this guy.) Some believe that it has caused many black men to keep their homosexuality secret, maintaining covert relationships with men while also dating women (who then also become at risk.) Of course, these two things—living in a homophobic community and preventing new HIV infections through safe sex—are not mutually exclusive, but it does make the safe-sex conversation more difficult to broach.
Another alarming fact about all of this is that the FDA approved Truvada, a drug that reduces the risk of new HIV infections through sex, back in 2012. Studies have shown that heterosexual women are more likely to have Truvada prescriptions than gay black men, which is, quite frankly, insane.
The magnitude of the problem was pointed out to me recently during an interview with Vagina Power queen and Atlanta resident Alexyss Tylor. “Atlanta is considered the gay capital, one of the gay capitals. We know that HIV is a problem amongst black men,” she said over the phone. “We know that a lot of men, not all of them, go to jail, they’re either already bisexual, bicurious, have been experimenting, and then they become more off the chain when they’re in jail. They get out now they have asshole fetishes.” (If you’re unfamiliar with Tylor’s work, I encourage you to watch a few of her YouTube videos or the short Vice documentary. She walks a fine line between brilliant and insane.)
Tylor wasn't suggesting that there is a direct relationship between prison and homosexuality, but her comment gave me pause just the same. Black men make up approximately 40% of the prison population, and blacks account for 44% of the country’s new HIV cases. There is no concrete relationship between prejudice against the gay community, AIDS, and prison, but all three issues are important to discuss when we talk about why #BlackLivesMatter. They are just as important as police brutality and racism. In fact, they are all part of a system that is centered on keeping black people paralyzed by poverty and ignorance.
Black men make up approximately 40% of the prison population, and blacks account for 44% of the country’s new HIV cases.
Black lives matter everyday, not just on World AIDS Day, but the threat to black life goes beyond the face of trigger-happy cops like Darren Wilson. Believing that #BlackLivesMatter means making sure that all of the issues affecting the lives of black men and women in this country are acknowledged. HIV/AIDS is one of many obstacles facing black people in America. #BlackLivesMatter, and celebrating World AIDS Day is one of the ways we can prove it.
Lauretta Charlton is an Associate Editor. She writes about culture, social issues, and dating. Follow her on Twitter at @laurettaland.