Awareness surrounding HIV/AIDS has been a major priority for the health care community for decades, and in the African American community, awareness has been key in lowering the rate at which this epidemic has spread. But even as HIV/AIDS infection rates have generally been going down in the Black community for several years, there remains one particular group of African Americans who are faced with rising incident rates: young, Black gay men.
In what has become a disturbing trend, this group is faced with an ever-rising infection rate. Daniel Driffin of the SHARE Project spoke about this issue and why gay Black men have to be the focus of more aggressive campaigning for awareness and prevention.
But first, Driffin says that we have to do more than just talk about HIV when it’s convenient.
“We see it occasionally with a high notoriety [celebrity] like a TV star will say they’re living with HIV and it’s important again,” says Driffin about the relative indifference. “It’s important on HIV Testing or World AIDS Day; it’s important to everyone and we’re talking about status. But we’re really not pinpointing the most impacted communities. Young, Black gay men between the ages of 13 and 29 have continuously showed an increase with incidence. We’ve seen that since 1996. The only rising incidence group is young, black gay men.”
Driffin emphasizes the fact that there has been a decrease almost across-the-board as it pertains to HIV incidence rates. And he explains why young, Black gay men are so disproportionately impacted and what has to change.
“When we look at other populations, such as mothers transmitting to their children and intravenous drug use leading to people catching HIV — that’s decreasing. That is mostly because of more clean needle exchange programs,” he says. “But when we look at numbers specifically for young black gay men, that’s not decreasing. A lot of that has to do with funding not being allocated to those highest impacted prevention projects. So projects specifically geared towards being black and being gay, funding around STI incidents and infection, because if you have a sexually-transmitted disease, it’s easier for you to contract HIV. Funding must follow the epidemic as we move forward, if we really want to see HIV changing.”