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Members of In the Meantime Men’s Group, Inc. will celebrate the 13th annual National Black HIV/ AIDS Awareness Day by hosting a series of events from February 5 through 10 including the launching of their anti-homophobia campaign. Rallying against homophobia in the Black community is one of their main concerns, they said, since it is a major factor in the prevalence of AIDS among Black youth. Other events include a ceremony honoring community leaders and activists who have partnered with them in the struggle and three separate flash mobs.
“Many do not discuss the underlying causes of HIV infections for young, Black, gay and bisexual men in the nation,” said ITMG spokesperson Jeffrey King.
“Homophobia is an issue that has begun to surface to the table of mainstream conversation. The staggering rates of teen suicides in the last five years and the uncontrollable incline of teen homelessness have awakened our senses to homophobia in the Black community.”
Every year, according to ITMG, thousands of Black LGBT people are displaced from their homes, families, churches and communities because of their sexual orientation.
“Unless we start today to build a society that celebrates diversity we are doomed,” said King.
“Thousands of human beings will continue to live in fear that breeds contempt and hatred. In 2013 it is incumbent upon each of us to stretch over to the other side of our communities and better understand who is in our houses, our neighborhoods, our schools and our churches. We are all divine children of God and we have been birthed with the capacity to love unconditionally. We must seek to be revolutionary in our own lifetimes…”
Officials from the Center for HIV law and policy call homophobia a “significant barrier to HIV diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, and a critical public health issue.”
“Homophobia and heterosexism interfere with appropriate health care access and services for LGBT individuals, feed support for counterproductive abstinence-until-marriage programming, fuel antigay social policies and other violence, and otherwise marginalize gay people of all ages,” they said.
“Studies consistently demonstrate that homophobia contributes to the spread of HIV and that internalized homophobia increases HIV risk. The Resource Bank provides access to information on issues related to homophobia and HIV, including discrimination, stigma, sexuality education, and access to care.”
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States (US). Despite representing only 14% of the US population in 2009, African Americans accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections in that year. Compared with members of other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of disease—from new infections to deaths.”
In 2009, according to the stats Black men who have sex with men represented more than 70 percent of all new HIV infections among Black men in general and almost 40 percent of the new infections among all men who sleep with men. Black women accounted for about 30 percent of all new cases. Most of them were infected through heterosexual sex.