Today is World AIDS Day, and a lot of attention is being focused, as it should be, on the terrible AIDS crises in Africa and India, as well as other parts of the world (but little or no attention on how U.S. policies have made the problem worse). But there is also an AIDS problem in the United States, and it involves African American women, who now account for 70% of our new AIDS cases.
About twenty African American women become infected with HIV every day, 67% of them receive the infection through heterosexual sex, and among black women ages 24-35, AIDS is one of the top three causes of death. The prevailing opinion is that most of these women are infected by gay or bisexual men on the “down low,” who believe they must keep their homosexual contacts a secret.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker has written tirelessly about the abadonment of black gay and bisexual men by black clergy, and some change has taken place in Atlanta. But there needs to be much more. The social conservatism of black America keeps men on the down low, and puts women, as well as gay and bisexual men, at great risk. More black clergy will have to get involved in creating AIDS education, promoting safe sex, and practicing acceptance of the gay and bisexual community. It is hard enough to be black in a society fueled by bigotry and fear; to be black and gay is a burden no one needs to carry alone.