Thoughts on a Roundtable: How to Get Heterosexual Black Men Involved in HIV Prevention, Part 1

Kellee Terrell
Kellee Terrell, News Editor for

I've always been bothered by the fact that heterosexual black men have been kept out of conversations about HIV prevention in the African-American community. A lot can be blamed for this blatant omission, but it's important to point to homophobia and an unhealthy obsession with the down low as major reasons why we haven't included straight black men in the mix.

And when you really think about it, not including them doesn't make any sense, especially since study after study has shown that blaming bisexual men for the disproportionate rates of HIV among the black community is inaccurate and ineffective, not to mention plain wrong.

And while educating women is crucial in terms of prevention and care, if 75 to 80 percent of HIV infections among black women are occurring through heterosexual sex and women are not the ones who control condom use, the fellas have got to be addressed and reminded that this epidemic is their problem as well.

That is why this roundtable exists. I wanted to speak with African-American HIV/AIDS advocates who can speak in-depth about the difficulties reaching heterosexual black men, why these barriers exist, and what is being done to fill these gaps. With the help of Ingrid Floyd, the executive director of Iris House in New York City, and Larry Bryant, the national field organizer for Housing Works in Washington, D.C., we had an amazing conversation that can relate to communities of color trying to reach heterosexual men.

Here are some important talking points from Part 1 of the roundtable conversation:

  • The spaces for men to talk openly about sexuality: Talking about sex and sexuality in a way other than about dominating a woman is not easy. Historically, African-American heterosexuals have been sexually fetishized and stereotyped, and instead of being seen as emotional creatures who communicate, they are cast as strong, silent, overly sexual types. Where can men go to talk about sex and emotions?
  • Black men's health must be a priority: Overall, people of color in general have a hard time gaining access to health care, but once young black men age out of pediatric care, it's hard for them to get back into care on a consistent basis. Young women and women in general have a reason to go to the OB/GYN and are more connected to the health care system; men don't have those same experiences and with that comes missed opportunities to be tested for HIV and STDs.
  • More data please: How much research is really being done around heterosexual men and HIV? And when research is being done, is it advertised in a way that encourages straight men to show up and be counted?
  • We need another Magic: Heterosexual black men, both those living with HIV and those not, need to see other men that they can identify with serving as role models and urging them to get tested. Where are those examples?

Read all of "How to Get Heterosexual Black Men Involved in HIV Prevention, Part 1" here.

Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.