Black and Brown People are the Face of HIV in America

By OckyDub | Posted Jul 31 2014 | 16 Comments  


Another month and another article to tell us what we already know; HIV is plaguing the Black community. The Washington Post’s article How black Americans became the face of the HIV epidemic provides details with eye catching informative diagrams and charts. Cypher Avenue has asked the questions before, does the Black community and Black LGBT/SGL community as a whole care about HIV? If your answer is “Yes…duh, of course they do”, then why does the infection rates keep escalating in communities of color? Obviously the always practice safe sex-where condoms approach isn’t fully working here. An opinion I expressed recently that I feel needs further examination and discussion is;

Some HIV/AIDS Activists Are A Part Of The Problem Yes…I said it. All (I use “all” loosely) we hear from those infected with HIV and HIV/AIDS activists is how HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence and you can live a happy normal life. This is true and factional but what I think needs to also be stressed is that in the process of living your normal and healthy life, the expensive financial costs for proper medications and treatment. Another thing is that once you begin to take your treatment, you may have severe side effects from the medications. Struggling to afford medications and possibly having side effects from the treatments is serious and many have troubles in regards to this aspect. I do wish these characteristics were talked about more. Regardless of the ailments, less money in our pockets or accounts equals less money in LGBT communities of color, less money in communities of color as a whole, less money for education, mental health, investments, business, quality of life, etc. It’s a terrible interconnected cycle.

According to the CDC (2010 projection) the average expense of HIV medication and treatment can cost an infected individual $379,668 over their lifetime. These are dollars being spent to treat a preventable disease and not necessarily being use to enhance or enrich minority communities. In another recent article of ours, we highlighted that a 2008 study (Conspicuous Consumption & Race) revealed that blacks spend more on luxury items like clothes, cars, jewelry and electronics than whites. Even though blacks often times have less, they spend up to 28% more on these types of items than their white counterparts.

I’m open to trying new ways to get the message out and say that not only does HIV/AIDs impact health, it also impacts our wallets. Maybe another way to approach this crisis is to focus on the potential financial hardship or what luxuries can’t be obtained due to costly HIV treatments? If so, I came up with my own diagram to show what luxury items could be purchased with $379,668.


2,531 pairs of Air Jordan Future



949 PS4 or Xbox One Gaming Consoles



151 Prada Bucket Bags



607 pairs Ron Ron Red Bottoms






41 Rolex Perpetual Datejust II Watch



10,847 Bottles of Ciroc vodka



10 Mercedes C-Class Sedans



7,593 Richard Sherman NFL Jerseys



1,898 Iphones



474 Samsung 55” Flat Screen TVs



5,423 Lebron James NBA Jerseys



949 pairs of Gucci Shades



11,166 Bottles of Remy Martin



5583 pairs of Sean John Jeans





The Washington Post article is by Jeff Guo. Follow him on Twitter: @_jeffguo.



About the Author

Octavius is a founder and editor of Cypher Avenue. He's here to help speak for us and show the world that masculine gay / bisexual men of color are not a part of the stereotypical gay normal that is seen and fed to the masses. No...we are a distinct breed, filled with character and pride. Cypher Avenue is here to show the world how we are different.

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16 Comments Feel Free To Join The Cypher.

  1. Pascal | July 31st, 2014

    That last graph doesn’t make any sort of sense.

    I could see two potential explanations:
    1) black MSM lie way more about their sexual habits than the white ones (especially to researchers?)
    2) they do way more IV drugs than white MSM (hence more chances to get infected)

  2. Rod Turpin
    Rod! | July 31st, 2014

    I like the comparison between HIV costs and various luxury items, it puts it in a unique perspective. In the healthcare field, one of the biggest challenges with HIV education is the balancing act of explaining how it will dramatically affect your life, in terms of finances, relationships, possible long term health issues, etc, and letting people know that its not the death sentence it was a few decades ago. My medical casework is almost exclusive AIDS patients, so I see the worst possible outcomes with HIV, and if I make a dent in any health issue through my work, I want it to be that one. As far as why it affects us black gbt individuals so much more, I’ve observed a few relevant trends:

    1. Blacks are less likely to have the support from family/friends (due often to homophobia) and as such don’t pursue testing as much. Now this contradicts the graph at the bottom, which I would explain as the following:
    2. Blacks are often underrepresented in survey data, due to higher rates of poverty in the black community. For individuals living in poverty, a survey is not going to be high on their list of priorities. And given that HIV has a positive correlation with poverty, this is going to alter the data.
    3. HIV outreach has only very recently targeted some of the highest risk areas (again, poverty-stricken neighborhoods). Speaking from a DC perspective, its only been in the past 4 years that there was a major push for prevention and testing in the more impoverished areas specifically. But the biggest factor in my opinion is:
    4. Once you have a major race-related disparity, it is incredibly difficult to undo. Even if the graph at the bottom was 100% accurate, it would take at least a couple decades to even out HIV rates given what discrepancies existed in 2008.

    I know that was a lot, but this is a topic I’m especially passionate about, and I really want to see this change.

  3. straight_up | August 1st, 2014

    These graphs point to a truth that most enlightened black gay men already know: white men are just as promiscuous if not MORE promiscuous than black men…and they are just as likely if not MORE likely to engage in reckless sexual behavior than black men. My experience has shown that the average black man is typically more conservative sexually than the average white man. My brothers are NOT the sexual lotharios the media paints us to be. But again, most of us have accepted the lies at face value without doing an ounce of critical thinking on our own.

    I wish us black men would stop internalizing the LIES that the media feeds us constantly about black people. The comment section here proves that black men believe the negative BS rhetoric the government publishes about us. These commenters go as far as to accuse the black men in the study of LYING because they just can’t believe those benevolent white people engage in riskier sex than blacks- even when they TELL you they do! Ain’t that something?

    Most of the information published about black people is a gross
    misrepresentation of the truth at best and a flat out LIE at worse. What’s conveniently missing in all these stats about HIV and the black community is the government’s role in perpetuating this disease in our communities. They’ll have you all to believe that HIV is spreading like wildfire through our communities through unprotected sex alone. If you all believe that then I have a bridge made of gold for sale in the San Francisco bay area. I would expound on this, but I know for sure one of the two site administrators would censor it.

    This black man does not trust any information coming from the CDC concerning black people, as I’m all too aware of our history with them. I highly recommend the book “Medical Apartheid” by Harriett Washington for further insight. It will blow your mind. Mark Twain once uttered those famous words: “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” When it concerns black people, no truer words have been spoken.

    • Rod Turpin
      Rod! | August 1st, 2014

      Wait, are you saying you agree with the graphs or not? You say they point to the truth initially, but you also say not to trust CDC (who made the graphs) with anything concerning blacks. Personally, I think they’re mostly accurate in terms of the sexual risk behavior, at least in terms of proportion between whites and blacks (as people often lie about sexual risk behavior, but I don’t have any reason to suspect one race lies more than the other). I definitely question the accuracy of the testing information, given how often that’s underreported (especially in conjunction with poverty).

      It’s always a good idea to be skeptical of anything you read in medicine, as it is far more prone to bias than it should be. But you also have to check your personal biases too. Don’t believe something simply because it is disparaging to whites, or disbelieve something solely because it portrays blacks negatively. We do have legitimate issues in our community (like HIV/AIDS) that we have to address. I’ve had more than a few AIDS patients tell me that their medication is nothing but a white man’s scam to keep them sick. They believed that and refused to take their meds up until their deaths. They held on to that belief even as they were falling apart in only a few years time. Personal bias can be very, very dangerous.

      • straight_up | August 1st, 2014

        I didn’t say whether I agreed or disagreed with the graphs. My statement regarding truth was pointing out that these graphs as they are presented here reflect something I know to be personally true: that white men engage in just as much or more risky behavior than black men, generally speaking. Despite this, blacks have been casted as the irresponsible ones, and many believe that garbage, as evidenced here on this thread.

        To be clear: I am not validating or invalidating the data in the graphs. I’m saying I don’t trust the CDC for multiple reasons. Black people may want to do more research into their friend the CDC and stop accepting the misinformation that they are very effective at promoting.

        One last thing: I wouldn’t scoff at your patients too much. Western medicine’s over-reliance on allopathy via man-made prescription drugs ARE designed to keep you perpetually sick, thus a lifetime customer to their drugs. So your patients concerns are legitimate.

        • Rod Turpin
          Rod! | August 1st, 2014

          There is certainly some institutional racism in how sexual risk behavior is portrayed, especially in the media and social settings (I’ve done some research into this very topic, and it’s truly amazing and disappointing just how frequently racism manifests in this area).

          I agree as well that there are several medications out there that are heavily or purely designed to fuel the medical-industrial complex that exists in the United States. This complex is the single most toxic aspect of our healthcare. But when it comes to HIV meds, they work. Unequivocally. And I always listen to my patients and consider their information. But if a patient tells me HIV meds don’t do what they claim to do, for their health I have to tell them that’s just not true. There’s too much information out there from all types of sources on the efficacy of HIV meds. And those patients that don’t take them keep a detectable (and often high) viral load, and not only eventually develop AIDS (barring the rare super-controllers), but are also the main ones who pass it on to others. If every HIV patient adhered to meds consistently, you’d see new infections drop by about 75% in a year. You could almost completely wipe out new HIV infections in about 10 years. So while its absolutely true that we have an overreliance on many, many medications, HIV meds absolutely, absolutely work.

    • Pascal | August 1st, 2014

      It is strange that you would think completely unlikely that black respondents would lie to the CDC about their sexual history, yet advocate that black men should not trust the government nor the CDC.

      Don’t you think that the two would be sort of linked (“I don’t trust the researcher so I’m gonna lie to them“)?

      • straight_up | August 1st, 2014

        No…what do I find strange is the fact that you automatically assumed the black men were lying about their sexual behavior while assuming the white men were being truthful. I hope you are not a black man because if you are, major self-reflection is in order.

        • Pascal | August 2nd, 2014

          I never wrote that white men were being truthful! In fact I think that in sex studies/polls, everybody lies, gay or straight, black or white. Especially in such a repressed society like America.

          So again, while I could see that if the idea is prevalent with some black men that the government is “out to get them”, then that ‘paranoia’ could lead them to lie more than rich white gays – who are lying still but have the government’s back – when answering to the CDC.

          And while I think that the study must have been designed to be as representative of the ethnic make-up of the gay population as possible maybe there was some socio-economic bias (like less outreach to underprivileged gays) that could explain the wonky results.

  4. Domingo | August 1st, 2014

    Let’s look at the science.

    Some white people are immune to HIV. And the crazy thing is, geneticist have known this for a couple of years now, but it hasn’t come close to making headlines.

    Nick & Octavius, you have the perfect platform to educate our brothers, please consider writing an article about it.

    HIV can

    • Domingo | August 1st, 2014

      HIV binds to the CCR5 receptor on your white blood cells. Some populations have a mutation that removes the receptors on the white blood cells called CCR5-Δ32.

      Eastern Europeans have the greatest frequency of this mutation in their population. It is almost non-existent in the african population, and most of us are members of the african diaspora.

      This means that white people have a genetic defense against HIV, and blacks do not. Knowing this, we must change the conversation away from promiscuity and fetish, and realize that there is not a direct correlation between the rate of HIV and behavior as it pertains to “race”.

      We cannot allow media to further degrade the black man, there was no choice on your part as it regards genetics. The comparisons to white rates of HIV and black rates usually always neglect the MOTHA FUCKIN SCIENTIFIC FACT that many white people are immune to the disease.

      Furthermore it is important to understand that not everyone has to have immunity to be protected from the virus. If you are not immune but your partner is, you cant get it from him even if he has had sex with HIV positive partners.

      The billions of dollars that go have gone into HIV research have discovered somethings, and one of them is, that some people are immune. But like I said read it for yourself, and don’t allow your previous stances prevent you from understanding the truth.

    • Ocky Williams | August 2nd, 2014

      I found out about this YEARS ago and completely forgot about it. Keep in mind its not all “whites / Europeans” bust some. From what I understand,the survivors of the Black Plague or Black Death 1000s of yrs ago passed on this gene. Black Plague’s make up is supposedly similar to HIV. I want to say I saw this on NOVA (maybe). Will have to do more research before I could write about it. Thanks for bringing this up.

    • John | August 2nd, 2014

      Which white people? Anglo-Saxons? Celtics? Jews-Israeli or/and eastern European? Baltic? Nordic?

      How much percentage of white do they need to have to be immune? What if you are 65% white and the rest south-east Asian and Celtic?

      African Americans due to slavery at high percentage have some white ancestry…could this help?

      West Africans are different to East Africans who are different to Southern Africans who are different to North Africans etc etc etc…..

      Some people of Sudan share the same race terminology as Jews and Arabic people. And what about Ethiopian Jews..

      And well, of course we have that crazy melting pot that is South America.

      If we’re talking descendants of the black deah…..yikes…that’s not many people in England! London was very mixed back then.

      Signpost your research data, I’m also very interested in your theory. Thanks.

      • Rod Turpin
        Rod! | August 2nd, 2014

        Its estimated at about 1% of Caucasians (primarily of Swedish descent) have two copies of the CCR5-Δ32 gene, making them immune to virtually all strains of HIV. About 15% have one copy, which confers some resistance but not full immunity. It certainly plays a role; i think the reason the genetics are often overlooked is that they’re unmodifiable. So knowing the genetics usually doesn’t help us with risk management or even prevention all that much (at least with HIV), the social factors can be more readily addressed for better health outcomes.

      • Domingo | August 2nd, 2014

        I learned about this in my evolution class. I mentioned earlier, not all members of a population have to carry a mutation to be beneficiaries of a mutation. you can think of the “mutants” as buffers to the disease for the rest of the population. Most white people in america, like blacks, descend from mixed ancestry, but those mixes include the mutation, as long as they only have sex with other white people their probability of being protected from the disease is much higher.

        Their is another mutation, that some african populations carry that has an alternative form of the CCR5 receptor called the CCR4 but its frequency is extremely low.

        About 20% of Caucasians are heterozygous for the CCR5 allele, and those people are not immune, but have been proven to be more resistant to the disease, reducing the severity of affects of HIV. Which means we could expect to see more whites living long lives with the disease.

        One of the most important theories in evolution is that you can not compare genetic and environment variations among different populations. There are too confounding variables at work to account for the differences between populations, always. Those graphs only paint a portion of the picture.

        Also, it has been reported that their are proportionately more gay people of color then there are whites. Proportionately. But there are more white people in the USA, and how many white people do you find say they are only interested in other white or latino men on their grindr? So, we have some things going on in this HIV epidemic and we might not be doing ourselves justice to continuously compare our rates of HIV transmission to whites.

        Population genetics could play a larger role when comparing our rates to other “races” than we have previously considered.

    • Dreamwalker
      Equilibrium | August 2nd, 2014

      You are correct. Understanding science, genetics, and environment places a big role in understanding the increased spread of HIV in people of African descent. This article I found a few months ago provides some additional insight.

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