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Minority Gays See Rise in AIDS Rates

Knox, R.A. (2000, January 14). Minority Gays See Rise in AIDS Rates. The Boston Globe

, pp. A1, 16.



(Download Minority Gays Rise in AIDS Rates overview as a PDF)

Phill Wilson is director of the African American AIDS Policy and Training Institute at the University of California

in Los Angeles. Commenting on the fact that AIDS is spreading faster among gay men of color, he says:


The tragedy here is that this did not have to happen. We gay and bi men of color were disproportionately affected in 1989…and yet we did not do enough. This shows what happens when we do not understand the complexities of race, gender, and sexual orientation in minorities.


According to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Male same-sex exposures account for 60 percent of all AIDS cases in men.
  • Injection drug use accounts for 24 percent of cases among men and 47 percent among women.

  • 52 percent of all homosexually acquired AIDS now involves men of color.


Commenting on these facts, Helene Gayle of CDC says:

These data may surprise many across the nation. We still think the gay epidemic as being largely a white one and may not realize how much it is spreading to gay and bisexual minority communities. At the same time those who study AIDS closely have seen this benchmark a long way off. The startling thing about this…is that this trend has been going on all along and people have kind of ignored this. The surprise is that people are surprised.


(This data underscores the need of the federal government) to expand our efforts directed toward men of color.)


Explaining social realities that make for such surprise, Laurence Farrell, AIDS specialist at Dimock Community Health Center in Boston, said:


There are many gay and bisexual Latino and African-American men who have sexual contact with men, but who identify as heterosexual.

Dr. Rafael Campo of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

in Boston adds:


The marked ‘fear and self-loathing’ that surrounds homosexuality among black and Latino men ‘hampers education efforts that target gay-identified men, and leads to unknowing infections of wives and girlfriends and children.’


More than half of the 18,153 American men diagnosed with homosexually acquired AIDS in 1998 were minorities. CDC figures compared 1998 infections to those in 1989. Here is the breakdown of US men diagnosed with homosexually acquired AIDS:













Black, non-Hispanic


Black, non-Hispanic






Asian/Pacific Islander/Native American


Asian/Pacific Islander/Native American




Of the above sampling a striking increase in youthful infections emerged—particularly in the gay community. Among the African-Americans cited above, 16 percent were 13-24. Among Latino males, 13 percent were 13-24, while among whites 13-24 the percentage was 9 percent.


The striking rise of teen and early twenties infections led Julio Abreu, of Washington based AIDS Action advocacy group, to warn:


Clearly it’s not enough to say we’re going to have messages targeted at gay youth. We have to talk about gay youth of color.


Laurence Farrell adds:


I think we’re close to a tipping point. I don’t know anyone…who doesn’t know someone infected or affected by HIV. That means we have reached a critical mass. The next challenge is: OK, what are we going to do about it?


There is understandable but dangerous reaction to such discussion and action—as explained by Rafael Campo remembering an attempt in 1998 to convene an Hispanic "summit meeting" sponsored by the Harvard AIDS Institute.


Quite sadly, none of the prominent Latinos came, with one exception, entertainer Rosie Perez. Some congressmen we invited represent districts that have among the highest AIDS rates in the nation. None of them came.



  1. How do you react to this article and its review? What most impresses or disturbs you?
  2. What are the central issues or controversy regarding AIDS prevention?
  3. What influence might advertising and the media have on the sexual mores and behavior of these young people?
  4. What part do morals and faith play in this discussion?

  1. In how many different ways should we combat the AIDS epidemic? And how would you prioritize such actions?



  1. AIDS continues to be a worldwide crisis of incredible human and social costs.
  2. AIDS and HIV infection are also serious teenage problems.
  3. Serious differences in perspectives and opinions are hindering significant response to this plague.

  1. An interesting discussion could involve listing and then prioritizing strategies for the prevention of AIDS.

Dean Borgman cCYS