When you think of HIV/AIDS, what do you picture?
According to a new report by the New York Times, the disease is disproportionately affecting poor men of color, making them the face of epidemic.
Despite progress being made in preventing and treating HIV among the middle class, 50,000 people are still being newly infected annually. That figure is increasingly made up of more and more of black and brown men.
The New York Times quoted CDC data, which shows that about 25 percent of new infections nationally occur in black and Hispanic men. When only men under 25 are counted, that number balloons to 80 percent.
“There wasn’t even an ad campaign aimed at young black men until last year—what’s that about?” said Krishna Stone, a spokeswoman for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
The article pointed to fear of stigmatization as one reason why gay black youths are hard to reach, and thus help. A CDC-led study showed that same-sex intercourse between black males is eight times as likely to result in HIV infection than white males.
“The image of a black gay man almost doesn’t exist,” Shariff Gibbons, who works with other young men at GMHC, told the Times. “In the black community, the image that ‘gay men are sissies’ is amped up a billion times. And we all have an aunt who goes to church and says, ‘Being gay is wrong.’ That makes young men hide.”
Yet black youths take fewer risks, had fewer partners and engaged in fewer sexual activities while drunk or high than their white counterparts. Blacks were also found to use condoms more often.
However, blacks are also more likely to lack health insurance and to see the doctor regularly, the Times reports. Black youths were also more likely to partner with older black men, who were more likely to have unchecked HIV than older white men.