Straight Black Men Ignored in AIDS Initiatives

Freddie Allen | 9/6/2012, 3:27 p.m.

Not only is Bryant a fierce advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, he is also a straight Black man living with HIV. In 1986, Bryant contracted HIV as an 18 year-old student at Norfolk State University

"When you talk about the history and the face of AIDS, I would qualify, but no one would ever associate me with that," Bryant said.

Bryant said that it's impossible to talk about the impact of HIV/AIDS on Black men without talking about homelessness, poverty, and incarceration.

"Black men in particular have been on the wrong end of disparities in health, in education and in economics for decades," said Bryant. "The epidemic of AIDS is more of a symptom of those bigger issues. If we address those things infection rates go down."

Most activists agree that preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and beating the epidemic in the Black community will take critical, uncomfortable conversations about sexuality, homophobia and the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Conversations that must begin in the schools, barbershops and beauty salons, and in the church.

"We have to approach this like adults and not like children," said HIV/AIDS activist Tony Wafford. "And until we get mature enough to have an adult conversation and agree to disagree on some things and still love each other like brothers and sisters we're going to have this problem."