(BlackDoctor.org) — December is recognized as AIDS Awareness Month. It’s a time to remember those who have died from this nearly 30-year epidemic, support those living with the disease, strengthen our resolve to educate others about it, and continue the mission of finding effective ways to treat and, hopefully, one day cure it.
Although there is not yet a cure for AIDS or the HIV virus that causes it, so much progress has been made in the past decade with regard to treatment options. At one time, if someone was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, it was taken as an automatic death sentence.
Now, because of these advancementss, it is mistakenly viewed as a chronic illness, such as diabetes, etc. Maybe at least partially because of these lax attitudes, HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect the African-American community. According to the Centers for Disease Control, African-Americans comprise almost 50% of the more than one million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. They also make up almost 50% of newly diagnosed cases every year. Sadly, despite all of this, HIV/AIDS is largely preventable. But people continue to get infected because of a few key issues, including the idea that it’s easy to recognize someone who carries the HIV virus – it’s easy to recognize someone who’s “down low.”
The problems with this “down low” issue are:
1. I find that this whole concept further demonizes Black men, since not only black men engage in this behavior AND it is not just men that engage in same-sex sexual encounters without the knowledge of their partners
2. It promotes the idea that Black women do not have the skills and confidence, i.e. power, to take responsibility for our own sexual health.
3. There is no clear and definite way to identify anyone who’s on the “down low.”
Unfortunately, many people have profited from this latter point, which has instilled fear instead of empowerment in our community, does not add any substantive content to the discourse, and has done more harm than good.