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Thanks to the success of lifesaving antiretroviral medication pioneered 20 years ago and years of research and education, most H. V.-positive people today can lead long, healthy lives. for several key populations, predicted that if current rates continue, one in two African-American gay and bisexual men will be infected with the virus. The South is also home to 21 of the 25 metropolitan areas with the highest H. Sturdevant has shared his story too many times to count, to let young men know that he has been there, too, and to help them understand that they can survive this plague. “I honestly didn’t believe it.” He paused and then added quietly, “It was the worst day of my life.”With effort, Jordon sat up slightly, untangling himself from a jumble of sheets. diagnosis and the illness are so overwhelming that maintaining a new and unfamiliar regimen of medication can be difficult. “Not as often as I should.” When he saw Sturdevant’s glare, he continued, sounding like a little boy. I have to take six pills, now seven, eight, plus a shot —”Sturdevant cut him off. Though not stated explicitly, the language of the report, by omitting race, implied that its “five young men, all active homosexuals,” were white, which they were. treatment and care for those who have no other way to finance their medication. The largest international health initiative in history to fight a single disease, Pepfar is considered a success story by any measure and a crowning achievement of George W. Yet while buckets of money went overseas, domestic funding for H. V./AIDS remained flat, and efforts to fight the disease here were reduced to a poorly coordinated patchwork affair. is only a problem in sub-Saharan Africa, and that message filtered down to the public. globally, the havoc that it wreaked on the domestic epidemic has been long-lasting.”Beginning in the late ’90s, the United States government funneled billions of federal dollars into abstinence-until-marriage programs here and abroad. “Plus, these are the same individuals that are dealing with structural barriers around lack of employment, lack of education and opportunities, transportation and, of course, very, very overt institutional racism.”An elevated viral load in a smaller sexual network (because most people still tend to have sex with people of the same race), amplified by the structural issues that Moore pointed to, also explains why H. But in the first decades of the epidemic, these ideas and explanations had not been widely accepted to explain the growing body of data pointing to fast-rising numbers of H. In fact, the African-American community was largely in denial about the fact that H. The community’s awakening came in 1991, when Magic Johnson tearfully announced, “Because of the H. I was an editor at Essence in 1994 when the magazine’s editor in chief, Susan L. among African-American women by putting Rae Lewis Thornton, a Chicago woman who described herself as “young, educated, drug-free and dying of AIDS,” on the cover. cases and deaths among black women, there was a lack of empirical evidence to clearly explain why the rates were so high. infection among African-American women was a result of a complicated combination of all these factors, as well as the reality that after decades of denial and neglect, the viral load piled up in black communities, making any unprotected sexual encounter with anyone a potential “bridge to infection.” But two decades ago, in the midst of a very scary, fast-growing epidemic, the down-low brother became the AIDS boogeyman. I assure you that none of the brothers on the down low like me are paying the least bit of attention to anything you have to say.”King’s subsequent 2004 book, “On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of Straight Black Men Who Sleep With Men,” appeared on the New York Times best-seller list for a number of weeks and spawned two “Oprah” shows, an episode of “Law & Order S. U.,” a BET documentary, a sequel by King and another book by his ex-wife. On Wednesday evenings once a month, Sturdevant runs an H. V./AIDS support group in a stark conference room near the State Capitol in Jackson.In cities like New York and San Francisco, once ground zero for the AIDS epidemic, the virus is no longer a death sentence, and rates of infection have plummeted. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using the first comprehensive national estimates of lifetime risk of H. That compares with a lifetime risk of one in 99 for all Americans and one in 11 for white gay and bisexual men. If gay and bisexual African-American men made up a country, its rate would surpass that of this impoverished African nation — and all other nations. He also knows that many black gay and bisexual men have been rejected and discarded, and has wrapped his arms around as many as he can grab hold of, treating them like family. He feeds them, sometimes houses them, but mostly listens to them. Sturdevant asked how he was doing, and he cataloged a laundry list of what he called his “old man” ailments. But there were two more documented cases, not mentioned in the notice, and these sixth and seventh cases were black — one of them a gay African-American, the other a heterosexual Haitian. Michael Gottlieb, the lead author of the report and a renowned physician specializing in H. V./AIDS, treated Rock Hudson before he died of AIDS complications in 1985 and still practices in Los Angeles. through a blood transfusion in the ’80s, this federal program provides funding for H. “When we saw that the epidemic was out of proportion in the black community, we started calling for a domestic Pepfar that would bring new resources to the effort, create clear and ambitious objectives and rebuild health care infrastructure around the country,” Lee said. for 14 years and a senior policy adviser for the Obama administration’s White House Office of National AIDS Policy, put it more candidly. Though the Bush administration did wonderful work in combating H. In place of effective sex education, these programs often discouraged condom use while teaching abstinence as the only way to prevent the spread of AIDS — even as well-regarded research established that this kind of sex education does not lower the risk of contracting H. Taylor, insisted that we shine a light on the disturbing increase of H. I had been writing about AIDS in the black community since the mid-’80s but had never seen anything like the coordinated efforts that started in the late ’90s, when civil rights groups, politicians, clergy, fraternities and sororities and celebrities stepped up to encourage testing and distribute prevention information. and other agencies offered plenty of alarming statistics confirming the high and growing numbers of H. Experts in academia and government researchers tried to unravel a knotted tangle of factors: Women were contracting the virus from bisexual men; higher rates of sexually transmitted infections among black women facilitated the spread of H. V.; socioeconomic issues drove up the rates of all disease. Ta-Nehisi Coates jumped into the fray in a 2007 essay for Slate that questioned why the myth of the “on-the-down-low brother” refused to die, referencing a controversial 2003 cover story in this magazine by a white writer who went into the scene to uncover closeted black men who lead double lives. diagnoses among African-American women plummeted 42 percent, though the number of new infections remains unconscionably high — 16 times as high as that of white women. The meetings end promptly at p.m., so the dozen or so young men can race home to watch “Empire.” Sturdevant began October’s gathering with a prayer.This isn’t made any better by the media report itself, which suggests, subtly, that his HIV status puts others, including fellow prisoners, in some kind of danger.However, at least one media outlet, by Hank Dudding Tuesday, August 19, 2008 An employee at a Memphis city swimming pool has been charged with raping a 17-year-old girl and exposing her to HIV last month.He was headed to a small town 90 miles east of the city to visit Jordon, an H. Sturdevant met the young man in 2009 and took him in; he later helped him deal with his H. His arms were marked with scars from hospital visits and IVs. He smiled slightly when he saw Sturdevant, dimples folding into his hollow cheeks. He wasn’t accustomed to being sick and had tested negative for H. In 2010, the Obama administration unveiled the first National H. V./AIDS Strategy, an ambitious plan that prioritized government research and resources to so-called key populations, including black men and women, gay and bisexual men, transgender women and people living in the South. “What we have been trying to do is ensure that we’re having the greatest effect with the resources we’re provided.”Few believe there is the kind of energy, leadership, money and political will in the current political climate to fix the situation in the community that has fallen through the cracks for so long. The congressional fight over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and the president’s declarations that “Obamacare is dead,” have conjured a disastrous return to even more alarming conditions, like waiting lists for medication. medication ballooned to over 9,000 people, mostly poor black and brown men in Southern states.“The key to ending the AIDS epidemic requires people to have either therapeutic or preventive treatments, so repealing the A. “For the most vulnerable, do we end up back in a time when people had only emergency care or no care and were literally dying on the streets? In 2006, I attended the International AIDS Conference in Toronto with a delegation of black journalists, civil rights leaders, government officials, politicians and celebrities, including the singer Sheryl Lee Ralph, Representatives Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee, the Rev. We ask that you bring more people in that need somebody to talk to. That need the understanding.”As the men settled into their seats, Sturdevant asked them to go around and “check in.” Jermerious Buckley, watchful behind black rectangular glasses, with no sign of the makeup and colorful pumps he wore on weekends at Metro, told the group, “I’m doing a whole lot better.” Last year, he said, “Daddy,” as he called Sturdevant, had pulled him back from the dead, after he had shrunk to 85 pounds, his arms covered with Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions, his kidneys failing. News outlets and social-media accounts shared a photo of him in his clerical robe, holding a sign that read: “Marriage is one man and one woman.With a mandate to “follow the epidemic,” several pharmaceutical companies and philanthropic organizations also started projects to help gay black men, particularly in the Southern states. And experts in the field have grown increasingly worried about the new administration’s commitment to fighting the disease. As recently as 2011, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program state-by-state list of people waiting for H. We don’t know yet, but we have to think about it.”June Gipson, president and chief executive of My Brother’s Keeper, the Jackson nonprofit Cedric Sturdevant works for, believes that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t have an immediate catastrophic effect in her state — but only because things are already so dire. He felt like a “zombie,” he said, too weak and hopeless to bother with his meds. Anything else is a perversion,” next to a horse clad in a white wedding dress. in Jackson lack the support of their families, community and the church, they end up in Grace House, a homeless facility on a sleepy block in the midtown section of the city.One news story, on the Memphis news website, commercialappeal.com, has so far received over 160 comments, some of which threaten the man’s life.Reading through some of the comments, it seems to many that the man’s HIV status is more worrying than his alleged rape, with some having extremely unrealistic ideas over how HIV is transmitted.
The investigation led police to Payne, who was charged Monday with aggravated rape and criminal exposure to HIV.
Sturdevant is a project coordinator at My Brother’s Keeper, a local social-services nonprofit. After a while a young man emerged, shirtless, shrugging off sleep. Sturdevant handed him the package, shook his hand and told him to “stay out of trouble.”Sturdevant drove on another 15 minutes to pick up Marq (a shortened version of his name to protect his privacy), a teenager who was still reeling from the H. He looked up briefly when Sturdevant told him, “You’ve come a long way. In Jackson, a small city of just over 170,000, half a dozen black gay or bisexual men receive the shock of a diagnosis every month, and more than 3,600 people, the majority of them black men, live with the virus. who don’t know they have been infected, which means they are not engaged in lifesaving treatment and care — and are at risk of infecting others. as an underlying cause, with the highest death rates in Mississippi and Louisiana. Sturdevant, born and raised in Metcalfe, a tiny Mississippi Delta town of about 1,000, understands all too well the fear, stigma and isolation that can come with being a black gay man in the South. “I just don’t know how everything got so bad.”Given the advances in research, information and treatment, it seems inconceivable that someone living with the virus today, like Jordon, could look as if he had stepped out of the early years of the epidemic. Community organizations became targets of anti-gay crusades, subjected to intense scrutiny, including exhaustive audits, by federal agencies. Most scientists now believe that risk of contracting H. But if you are in a community, like Jackson, where a high percentage of gay and bisexual men are infected with H. This explanation of “viral load” helps dispel the stubbornly held notion that gay and bisexual black men have more sex than other men, a false perception embedded in the American sexual imagination and fueled by stereotypes of black men as hypersexual Mandingos dating back to slavery.“Black men are not just out here having unprotected sex willy-nilly; the science disproves that,” said Terrance Moore, deputy executive director of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors in Washington.