HIV Among Gay Black Men

By Jared Woods
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It is an astonishingly fact backed by research that gay black men have a 50% chance of contracting HIV, regardless of age or location. This is in shocking comparison to white gay and bisexual men, who have a risk of less than 10%, and black straight men, who have a 5% chance of risk. Injectable drug users have an even lower percentage of HIV risk. What is it that makes gay black men so susceptible to HIV exposure?

It might be easy to assume that sexual practices, cultural attitudes, and behavior are the reasons why gay black men are at such a high risk. The truth is that gay black men are at the center of many cross-sections of risk when combined make them the most vulnerable.

Any epidemic or disease is more likely to strike a group that has been stigmatized well before the disease event. This is because there is not enough medical or legal support in place for these individuals, and little interest in those outsides of the stigmatized community to help. These intersecting vulnerabilities include:

1. Higher rates of unemployment, poverty, and incarceration in black communities, which is linked to a higher risk of HIV.

2. Black gay men are statistically more likely to have sex with other black gay men, which increases the risk within that community due to their exclusivity.

3. Gay black men are also statistically more likely to have sex with older men, who are more likely to have HIV. 

4. Black men of all sexual identities are more likely to use injectable drugs, putting them at higher risk of contracting HIV from shared or dirty needles.

5. Legal, social, and medical system failures to help these communities. Black and gay communities have been long stigmatized, and gay black males suffer the prejudices of being both.

6. Gay black men are less likely to seek preventative measures or treatment due to a lack of trust in health professionals. Due to the failures of social, legal, and medical systems to give equal access to care to gay black males, they are less likely to seek their help since they fear they may just be wasting their time or putting themselves at risk of facing further prejudice.

7. Social stigma prevents individuals from disclosing their HIV status, making transmission more likely. Gay black men may be afraid to admit their HIV status even to themselves, and so they spread the disease to their partners.