Myths About 'Down Low' Gay Men and Homophobia in the Black Community

RH Reality Check
Charles Stephens
Original Article:

In far too many public health research, policy, and practice circles, there is a perception that high HIV rates in Black communities are due to pervasive homophobia. People in the media often affirm this notion, with Lee Daniels, executive producer of the addictive and entertaining new show Empire, being one of the most recent offenders. This notion is overly simplistic and does not advance discussions around building bridges among heterosexual and LGBT Black communities, nor does it advance discussions around improving health outcomes related to HIV prevention, care, and treatment. #ThisIsLuv, launched in February, is the latest anti-stigma campaign aimed at correcting misconceptions around the Black LGBT community, and medical researchers, policy advocates, and practitioners, including those focused on HIV and AIDS, would do well to take note.

Daniels, who is openly gay, remarked at a Television Critics Association event earlier this year that while doing background research for his 2009 film Precious, he was surprised to learn how significantly Black women have been affected by HIV. Indeed, Black women account for the majority of new infections in the United States each year among women. From this observation, he arrived at the conclusion that “down low” Black gay and bisexual men (men who have sex with men in secret), are killing Black women.

According to what Daniels said at the event, Black gay and bisexual men can’t come out about their sexuality because of the extreme level of homophobia in Black communities, so they must engage in secret sex with other men, wherein they get HIV that they later pass on to their female partners.

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