The HIV virus has become sustainable over the years thanks to medical breakthroughs over time, but the issue still lingers in Black communities. The CDC reports that Black men and women are the most at risk when it comes to HIV.
What is the relationship between HIV and Black men?
Gay men who have sex with each other (MSM) have higher rates of HIV, this being specifically true with gay Black men. When compared to white MSM, there is a significant gap between who has it and who does not. It’s clear that there could be a number of reasons why, including down-low culture or “DL” as most people use it. Subsequently, when magnified, these issues heavily affect Black MSM. The CDC reported Black MSM are the most group compared to other groups of homosexual men to be at risk.
Black MSM represented the largest adult group to be affected by HIV. Blacks only make up 13% of the U.S.; Why is the HIV rate higher than any other group? When observing these statistics, we must consider the power dynamics of why white gay men have access to certain resources that Black or LatinX gay men simply cannot access. Subsequently, this associates the restraint access to healthcare, preventive HIV education, and housing, increasing the risks of HIV.
The Black sheep: Black Man’s Sexuality
Misogyny and sexism might be a constant theme in Black sexuality in keeping the hierarchy of gender roles in place. This can translate itself into straight or gay relationships. Generational trauma has sexualized Black men into not allowing them to be free sexually. Furthermore, the Black man’s sexuality is rooted in hyper-masculinity thanks to the reign of white supremacy that has lasted for hundreds of years. Anything outside of the perception of sexual roles and attitudes regarding Black men is not socially acceptable. Black men are not afforded the same opportunity to explore their sexual orientation. This can oftentimes lead to the internalization of homophobia, fueling the need not to be tested because it’s associated with homosexual behavior.
Black women and their relationship with HIV
Often times Black women are left out of conversations that center on HIV. These conversations usually involve men. Those times are over and Black women living with the virus are speaking out. GileadHIV, a YouTube channel, has interviewed numerous Black women to tackle the topic of HIV titled “Gilead HIV: Many Women, One Voice.” Doctor of Social Work, Marsha Martin, stated how the virus was never about Black women. “This is now a disease about us, this is now a disease that is squarely in the African American community, it is a disease for which the disparities and numbers are just striking,” she says. Many women in the video had no clue they were at risk. “I didn’t get tested because I thought I was at risk, I got tested because I was pregnant and it was offered, it was rolled in there like all of the routine tests,” said Gina Brown of the New Orleans AIDS Task Force. “I’m in there thinking I’m okay, but I wasn’t,” she adds.
African-American women represent 12 percent of the U.S. population and are more than twice of what they represent in the country. Black women in American face up to a 64 percent diagnosis rate, making them the largest female group by race to combat this fatal virus. “How can we as a community be 12 to 14 percent of the US population and 45 to 60 percent of the new infections?” Dr. Martin adds. Many of the Black women who contracted the virus in the video explain that they did not think they engaged in any risky sexual behaviors or substance abuse. Sadly, most of them thought the virus was a part of someone else’s story, negating the fact that it could ever reach them, Dr. Martin explains.
Reform Sexual Education
Sexual education in relation to the risk of HIV leaves lower-income areas most at risk. It’s vital to keep in mind that education in these areas is sometimes dated in combating sexually transmitted infections and HIV. State and local governments focus on abstinence programs, investing two billion dollars into these programs to teach adolescents. We need to have a post-secondary education to teach about sex, not limiting views to only abstinence teachings. These teachings would inform preventive tools to deal with sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. There are schools that instill these types of methods of teachings, but the retention rate has not increased for Black students. Educating HIV transmission would be a step in the right direction, especially for Black communities.
Socioeconomic Class in Connection to HIV
Socioeconomic class plays a pivotal role in finding out what areas lead to infection and transmission rates of HIV. Director of the Politics, Culture & Identity lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Phillip L. Hammack has done multiple studies on HIV in relation to Black communities. He suggests that Black youth in lower socioeconomic classes are more likely to start having sex earlier. Thus, leading to more unsafe sexual behaviors and practices. Leading to more unprotected Black youth, leaving them vulnerable to a plethora of STIs. Take into account the correlation between Black communities in poorer areas and the lack of resources, these communities face in relation to HIV. In 2018 Black communities accounted for 482,900 cases of HIV out of 1.2 million cases. That’s almost half of the cases by the end of that year. In addition, in 2018, six out of seven Black people knew they had the virus by the end of 2018. This is a national crisis by all accords, and prevention and the first step in defeating the virus.
Truvada for Prep is a great way of fighting back if one is HIV-negative. It’s a Pre-exposure prophylaxis for individuals to prevent HIV if they were to expose someone. Mostly targeted to gay men. Many Black women are beginning to take drugs as well. The drug is taken at lower rates in regards to Black women. A study done with AIDS and Behavior Journal revealed the medical mistrust Black American women, in particular, have with PrEP. The most common reason was most did not think they were at risk, therefore not needing the drug, followed by the clinicians overlooking Black women’s risk of HIV infection. Also, most women do not know about the drug’s existence. In addition, pharmacists believe it would benefit patients of having programs set in place to educate on drugs like PrEP.
To win this battle, the health of Black men and women needs to be a priority for this country in combating this virus.