How do we reconcile the explicit messages we present to black gay men countering homophobia and HIV stigma with the messages we imply through our HIV closets? Where is the integrity in challenging gay men to relinquish their imbedded shame as we demonstrate and justify our own?
Stigma cannot be dislodged unless more HIV-positive people come out of our viral closets and break down the barricades of fear and silence. It is no secret that black gay men bear the highest HIV burden. Our condition demands that we unleash the radical.
By increasing HIV status awareness among disproportionately affected African-Americans, we can take full advantage of our new biomedical understanding of the value of treatment as prevention. This approach improves health outcomes for the individual, and for the greater community.
Instead of throwing a condom in a young gay black man's hand, first look at what his world looks like. What are his life circumstances? What societal barriers prevent him from getting the message on HIV? Does he feel that he has any worth?
Maybe by seeing a gay black man in a relationship, other gay black men will see long-term relationships as something they can do, too, and perhaps, just perhaps, this can be the catalyst for driving down HIV rates among gay black men.
We finally are starting to scratch the surface of the depth of the HIV crisis among young black men who have sex with men (MSM). It was the spirit of persistence to find answers that many of us brought to the White House LGBT Conference on HIV/AIDS in Atlanta, Ga. on April 19.