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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jeffrey King: Will Young Black Gay Men Drink the HIV Kool-Aid?

By Karen Ocamb -

Jeffrey King
Editor’s note: Feb. 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: according to the Centers for Disease Control, African Americans account for almost half (46%) of all new HIV infections.  In this essay, Jeffrey King, executive director of In The Meantime Men, says we all must continue to re-think and re-examine our approaches to treatment and prevention. – Karen Ocamb

Will Young Black Gay Men Drink the HIV Kool-Aid?
By Jeffrey King

Executive Director of In The Meantime Men 
I lost 10 friend and associates last year. They were all HIV positive. Some lost their vision, had strokes, developed cancers, heart attacks, were paralyzed and unable to walk or talk, entered the hospital and never came home.  There still is an HIV/AIDS crisis in our Black neighborhoods.
But what really struck me was how their medical conditions were the result of adverse reactions to HIV medications. Yes, we are all grateful for the bio-medical advances that allow us to live longer and help us “manage” HIV disease. But with expected budget cuts and perhaps even more limited access to healthcare, it is important to stress the need for everyone to become better healthcare advocates for themselves – and that includes asking their doctors and other HIV experts if HIV medications are the ONLY way to manage the disease.
After years of work to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, Black gay, same-gender-loving and bisexual men are being subjected to “the pill” as the primary solution. With the advancements in western medicine and drug cocktails that don’t really make you happy, gay men are now being subjected to medical recommendation like, “Start meds when you have 500 T-cells.”
Imagine a young, healthy Black man who feels that his life is being transformed before his very eyes as he sits in front of a doctor (or HIV expert) who’s telling him that he must start a regime of health-changing medications — before he is even given the chance to be monitored over time to asses his individual HIV viral impact.
Those of us who educate, advocate, advise, support and walk young men through the doors to get that HIV test have a deeper responsibility to ensure that these men are educated enough to make the best possible informed decisions before and once they have received a confirmatory HIV+ diagnosis. And we must teach them how to advocate for themselves – including asking for holistic as well as medicinal options.  Diminishing stress through Yoga, for instance, is great prevention.
As we enter February, ‘Black everything month,’ I challenge all of us to be more responsible with our resources, research, implementation of our interventions, and thoroughness with our pre and post-test counseling.
“The pill’ is NOT the only option between life and death: it is totally irresponsible to suggest it is and anyone who advocates pills alone – drinking the HIV Kool Aid – should be carefully scrutinized.
We have a moral and ethical responsibility to educate our youth and assist them when they decide to enter treatment for HIV, ensuring they have ALL of the information and support available to make this life-transforming decision.
We remain grateful for medications that help to save lives when promoted and recommended responsibly and as needed. But as care providers and advisors, it is also our responsibility to learn about all other options.
It is your turn to take a stand: become better educated and then share what you have learned with those around you.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is not a holiday!
Go to this CDC website for more HIV resources and information.


In the Meantime Men and the Black LGBT Network present the powerful film Strange Fruit Tuesday night, Feb. 1. Set in contemporary rural Louisiana, Strange Fruit explores the tribulations of William Boyals, a successful New York lawyer and gay African-American who comes home to the life from which he escaped to investigate the lynching of his also-gay childhood friend, Kelvin. The harder he looks, the deeper he gets, until the veil is pulled back to reveal a quagmire of racism and homophobia that threaten his life. FREE SCREENING @The Kick Back Lounge, 4067 W. Pico Blvd. LA CA (Park at the Catch One) SOCIALIZE from 7-7:30; Movie from 7:30-9:00


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