Thursday, July 26, 2012

What's Going On!

         After reading some disturbing news I went to our 10th floor office window that looks down on Downtown Brooklyn and couldn’t help myself as I screamed out in the air, “What’s Going On!’ It wasn’t a sing-a-long to Marvin Gaye’s signature song rather it was a frustrating cry of attention to the brotha’s who were passing down below. An honest guttural reaction that came from a person who just read how black men like me continue to be the face of HIV/AIDS and wondering after 30+ years why are African American males so heavily impacted. And as this news is brought forth where are the other voices screaming out. Why is there such a deafening response of no response?

            The report I’m referencing was just released at the beginning of the International AIDS Conference being held in Washington D.C. The report released by the Black AIDS Institute titled, “Back of the Line: The State of AIDS Among Black Gay Men in America," paints a vivid picture of the growing epidemic in the black communities. According to the report in some cities one in two black men who have sex with men are HIV positive. The report goes on to state that looking at the entire United States, one in four new infections occur among black men. Would it be to over dramatic of me to compare reading this to reading a horror book by Stephen King?

            Kidding aside what we have is another wake up call that when it comes to HIV prevention, black men are not hearing the alarm. To quote the movie, there is really a failure to communicate but unfortunately that miscommunication is resulting in a disease slowly ingraining itself like a deep rooted weed into communities of color and what’s worse is that the weed is left to grow unattended.

            Perhaps one of the reasons for the continued rise is that there’s an acceptance that black men are always the ones infected, a growing complacent that is sweeping the cities and rural areas of this country. I say this as there’s no press release from elected officials concerning the report. No major media outlet has it as a breaking news story ticker –taping its way across the screen. There’s no “We Are the World” moment of celebrities bringing awareness as those moments are saved for those outside the borders of the United States. A realization that it’s expected. What’s going on!

            Rather than repeat the information that the report provides, in summary it states that African-American men are increasing their rate of infection. A question can be asked why it takes places like Africa to have similar numbers for people to take action. A bigger question may be why is such a report with huge disparities simply accepted and why no call to arms not just from the black community but all communities. Is this a Kayne West moment where he made his infamous statement during the New Orleans Hurricane tragedy claiming that ‘George Bush doesn’t like black people’ only now replaced with new language claiming that ‘America doesn’t like black people’ or if I can get more deep and make the bold statement, ‘Black people don’t like black people’?  Are we as a country hiding out in a Superdome ignorant to the fat that the roof is blowing off over our heads? Or has the waters of HIV become so deep we feel there’s way to save them all.

            Have we just given up on gay black men? In the tone of Mrs. Romney, have we told ourselves we created all the HIV posters for you people, supplied you with all the Magnums condoms, and provided all the incentives for you to get tested? Feeling no other efforts is deemed necessary, as we tell ourselves that it doesn’t involve me.

            Have gay black men given up on themselves? Telling ourselves it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when so why let HIV prevention messages soak into our consciousness? Have we truly lost value in ourselves and each other that we don’t wrap before we strap? Or do we have ears plugged with the sounds of poverty, racism and stigma to not hear the message that our lives matter or maybe that’s the problem. We’re tired of hearing the message. We want to pretend it’s a song for someone else.
            Has the deafness of this tragedy afflicted the gay community in general as there’s no room to discuss HIV in the black community as the agenda has switched to one of gay marriage. HIV becoming an afterthought that no longer requires us to chain ourselves to government doors demanding they do something about this? Has the deafness prevented the black community to storm the doors of local state and city funded HIV agencies and ask what is being done with our monies that fund HIV prevention programs and why are we not starting to ask for refunds on a product that is no longer working or at the very least question why it’s not working?  

            I know I’ve been asking a lot of questions and not giving many answers, or rather not joining the chorus of intellects who have the answer but can’t apply the solution but let me just extract one remaining thinking point. Can the absence of reaction be a rationale as why HIV doesn’t make a difference when it affects gay black men? If the silence is an indicator it may not be an excuse or provide the reason but it may give us all a second thought that in the struggle for equality and gay marriage we should leave room on the plate for something that’s not going away soon. We’re all affected and infected when it comes to HIV and the growing rise amongst African-American men.

We need to all yell out the window and ask, ‘What’s Going On’ and make sure that the question doesn't fall on deaf ears.
To see the original report click on the link below and a PDF will open

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