A look at the state of health for black gay men in the wake of Pulse
July 09, 2016 at 10:30 am
In an ever-growing climate and atmosphere of social change, the voices of the most marginalized are seemingly getting their chance to not only be the point of conversation, but be in the room to help make the decisions that involve their lives. As a black gay man, I and many others understand the importance of health with the intersection of HIV, socioeconomic status and race, and why the time is now to address these issues in effort to create change in the health disparity. Recently, the first steps toward including this conversation in the national discussion around health took place and foreshadowed the growing need for attention in this area.
On May 25th, 2016, a panel discussion was held at NIH to discuss the State of Health of Black Gay Men and the need to increase funding toward this marginalized population. Using the “ManDate Model,” panelists discussed the financial, political, sexual, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, psychological, physical, and social aspects of black gay men, which in turn creates the “health model” that determines a person’s “State of Health.” These nine areas of health and wellness are used to assess the level of which a black gay man may be excelling while also failing and how the intersections of these areas play a role in creating the disparities.
The intersectionality of being black and gay shows where there are many overlapping areas that are not exclusive to either.
HIV/STI, sexual prejudice, mental health, homelessness, and alcohol/substance abuse are sexual areas that were reviewed, as they affect people who are black and who are gay, when combined aid in creating an oppression that can be overwhelming for many. These intersections also play a major role in various areas of life as a black gay man that include life expectancy, mental health, incarceration, and most importantly, HIV.
For black gay men, the epidemic of HIV is more prevalent now than ever. According the CDC, 50 percent of black gay men will contract the virus over their lifetime. In the South, the rate of infection for men over that lifetime is even higher due to poor treatment and prevention options intersected with homophobia and lack of educational resources. From this, the discussion went into the importance of having safe space where black gay men can build community, foster effective communication, and promote better health practices among us.
Project Health Living (ManDate) serves the purpose of creating programming and assessing social risk factors and behavioral risks while attempting to change the narrative in how we combat HIV and other STI’s which disproportionately affect black gay men. With hopes of expansion into the South, PHL hopes to serve as the first step toward assisting HIV/AIDS organizations by accessing areas that traditional outreach methods fail to reach. The goal of building a community of leaders and black gay men is to effectively reduce the rate of newer HIV/STI infections while providing resources for those already infected to get into treatment.
Unfortunately, the health and wellness of black gay and Latinx men would be called upon review much sooner than anyone would have wanted or expected. In what is now known as the worst massacre in American history, the tragedy of Pulse nightclub left 49 people dead, 53 wounded, and the lgbtq community of color afraid, angry and needing answers. When assessing the health and wellness of black gay men following this tragedy, the ManDate Health Model shows how one event can affect every aspect of health and wellness.
From grieving to the state of mental health, there was an outpouring of concern around the lives of the LGBTQ community in America after witnessing how hate speech and phobia can oftentimes have a deadly impact on the most oppressed populations.
For black gay men, the term of “being in care” has to become one that is more than us attending a doctor’s appointment every three months, staying on our treatment of PrEP or ART’s. The need for a health model that looks at the totality of the lived experience of a black gay man is now more important than ever following the tragic events at Pulse nightclub. Black gay men are fearless and resilient, but can do nothing when we are only being viewed in pieces and not as part of the whole puzzle.
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