A Seat at the Table: How Empowering Young, Black, Gay Men to Lead Can Address Spikes in HIV

Published: November 27, 2011

The most recent statistics indicate that an entire generation is being impacted by HIV on an epic scale. HIV cases among young, black, gay and bisexual men increased by an estimated 48 percent between 2006 and 2009, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ultimately, it is impossible to discuss HIV/AIDS in the black community without addressing the importance of tolerance. It is up to us — relatives, co-workers and friends — to engage our black, gay brothers in a conversation that is constructive and rooted in concern, one that turns to them for insight instead of turning them away.

There have been significant political and medical advances made in HIV/AIDS prevention. The National AIDS Strategy, a key achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency, is a prime example. By focusing with laser precision on at-risk groups and prioritizing addressing disparities in HIV, there will be historic gains. On the scientific front, advances in biomedical HIV-prevention tools, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, have given us signs of hope even as we take a collective gasp at the work ahead of us. However, HIV has never been merely a public health issue but a social one, as well. It is an issue that impacts us not only abstractly but also in a very real and tangible way.

The black community as a whole has made substantial progress, more than is credited, in terms of embracing our diversity. Many unsung heroes and heroines have taken great strides in challenging anti-gay attitudes. Straight allies have also spoken out unapologetically in support of their gay brethren. However, there is still work to do, and HIV/AIDS makes building bridges across orientations even more critical. The black community has just as much of an incentive to be a part of the solution: the "win" is the lives of our people, the lives of young, black, gay men. These men are valued; their lives are priceless. They are assets to our communities. 

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