One thing that I’ve observed recently was that none of the “mainstream” social media and dating websites out there (Facebook, Twitter,, etc) have a default section for declaring your HIV status…Only on the GAY sites.On one hand, I thought it was commendable for the gay sites to do this since the transmission of HIV is so widespread, especially amongst young people of color.But then it made me realize that if a straight person set up a Facebook and/or Twitter account and voluntarily posted “HIV Negative as of (insert date here)”, as seen on gay sites, people would most likely assume they were gay, bisexual or on the “Down Low“.In this day and age, is HIV (or even just the conversation about your status) still perceived to be a gay-only issue?
Obviously HIV is not a virus that is limited only to male homosexuals. However, a constantly reinforced perception in the United States certainly makes it out to be. From films to television, gays are shown as The HIV Spreaders, especially “Down Low” African American men (aka closeted Bisexuals).Even in many HIV prevention and testing advertising in and around cities like Atlanta, you mainly see young, attractive, black male models.
Using these types of male models, the CDC possibly [unintentionally] insinuates to the public that only these type of men are at risk and should be tested. Specifically, gay black men. Gay black men who are attractive and “look straight”! So you better hide ya kids, hide ya wife!Don’t get me wrong. I know full well the real intention of the CDC with these types of ads. Young black men, especially Gay/Bisexual men, have greater numbers of infection. According to the CDC, in 2006 black gay men (13-29) accounted for 52% of new reported HIV infectionsBlack men in general made up for 65% of infections among all blacks. Based on projections, they estimate that at some point in their lifetimes, 1 in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV infection (Fuck)!Admittedly, I’ve known some people to live (and die) with HIV and AIDS…but they’ve all been gay black men.So the CDC is just marketing to the reality. A disheartening reality.

A reality that I’ve even admitted to being at irresponsible while avoiding.

Since we’re on the subject of sex, could that be the overall reason a checkbox for HIV status is programmed into gay sites? Let’s face it, gay culture is driven by SEX.

Most social websites targeted to gays may have initially been created for “chatting”, but ultimately many people use them for sex hookups. However, I knew many straight men who used Myspace and Blackplanet for casual hookup sex with women on many occasions. So why the bias for homosexual male’s websites? The HIV statistics?

That brings me back to my original question. If the reality is what it is, can we blame the masses for assuming you are gay if you’re a masculine black/latino man who advertises your HIV status online (negative or not)?

Can we blame websites that are not specifically geared towards Gay/Bisexual men for ignoring the HIV status question? They are not promoting sex or catering to a particular lifestyle defined by sex…So why should they?

If I have to offer my opinion, my short answer would be that the numbers for HIV infection in this country are hard to deny. In parts of Africa, HIV may be a universal risk, but here in the States the numbers show that Gay men (especially black gay men) are the main people becoming infected with the virus (53% of all infections, CDC).

The reason why I hate my answer is because we ALL should feel comfortable conversing about HIV and our status without perceived stigmas being placed on us. To be completely honest, your status is no ones business except for the person you plan on having sex with in the near future.

So maybe if we can somehow shed all the shame from the conversation, black men would feel more comfortable getting tested. Thus possibly reducing the alarming rates of transmission.

Ah…if the solution was only that simple.

– Nick D