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Action plan to address HIV among black gay and bisexual men

WASHINGTON – To commemorate the anniversary of the first reported AIDS cases, as well as the opening of LGBT Pride Month, the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) has issued a new report, RISE Proud: Combatting HIV Among Black Gay and Bisexual Men.

As a population, African-American gay and bisexual men bear the heaviest burden of HIV in the United States. But for too long, much of the public health discourse has focused on epidemiological factors such as increased HIV prevalence and higher rates of sexually transmitted infections. These factors alone do not adequately explain the extraordinary and disproportionate impact HIV has on Black gay men and are an insufficient foundation upon which to build a response.

“For decades, HIV has taken a heartbreaking toll on black gay and bisexual men,” said Kali Lindsey, NMAC director of legislative and public policy. “But the proportion of resources and attention directed toward the unique and specific needs of black gay and bisexual men has never adequately reflected the scope of the crisis or been completely understood.

“On World AIDS Day 2011, President Obama said that we must do more to show that ‘the lives of black gay men matter.’ This long overdue call to arms, requires that we not only increase funding for organizations that serve the health needs of black gay men, but also work to change the societal structures that perpetuate stigma, poverty and marginalization and prevent us from achieving optimal health outcomes.”

To that end, NMAC embarked on a three-year process to examine the contextual and structural factors that impact the ways in which black gay and bisexual men manage their sexual health.

This process included focus groups with black gay men across the country, a systemic review of available literature and correlative data with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the assembling of an advisory panel comprised of 12 black gay men and multidisciplinary subject matter experts. The panel was tasked with helping to develop evidence-based recommendations to address the most pressing challenges posed by America’s criminal justice system, structural barriers to health care access and the role that social determinants play in health outcomes. “RISE Proud” is the culmination of these efforts.

“Black gay and bisexual men are incredibly resilient. But as a community, we have been let down by the public health system. Today’s report and the recommendations contained within are in no way a panacea, but we put forward a number of concrete steps that can be taken by all aspects of our society – from law enforcement to private funders, government agencies to religious institutions – to improve our national response to this crisis,” Lindsey said.

“Our hope is that ‘RISE Proud’ will begin the critical, and long over due conversation about the intrinsic value of black gay and bisexual men, and the need to demonstrate this through immediate and constructive action to mitigate the impact of HIV on all of us.”

Between 2006 and 2009, young black gay men saw a 48% spike in new HIV infections. Despite making up less than 1% of the overall U.S. population, black gay and bisexual men accounted for more than 22% of all new HIV infections in 2010. And for the first time in 2011, the estimated number of new HIV infections among black gay and bisexual men surpassed that of white gay and bisexual men. What’s more, black gay men experience significantly poorer health outcomes than their white counterparts.

The full report can be read online HERE. As a complement to the action plan, NMAC has also launched a new website that provides plane language resources for black gay, bisexual and same-gender-loving men to assist them in managing their overall health, including sexual health.

About the National Minority AIDS Council

NMAC represents a coalition of faith-based and community-based organizations as well as AIDS service organizations advocating and delivering HIV/AIDS services in communities of color nationwide. Since 1987, NMAC has developed leadership in communities of color through a variety of advocacy campaigns, public policy education programs, national conferences, research programs, capacity building, technical assistance and trainings, and digital and electronic resource materials.