A "hot topics" discussion on The View three weeks ago between host Sherri Shepherd and guest co-host D.L. Hughley has stirred up controversy over an ongoing myth about the role gay men play in the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Blacks in the U.S. [Ed. update: And AIDS and gay activists are demanding ABC correct the record. See the Action box to chime in.]
On June 21st, Slate published a story titled "Inferior Blood" that asked, "If it's OK to reject blood from gay men, what about blacks?" Federal guidelines ban gay males from donating blood if they have had sex with men in the past 30 years, because they are classified as a group with an increased risk for HIV. But the article notes that since HIV prevalence is 18 times higher for Black woman than their white counterparts, why not ban Black folks from donating blood too?
The next day on ABC's The View, D.L. Hughley, a Black actor and comedian, presented his wildly misinformed opinion as a fact: "When you look at the prevalence of HIV in the African-American community, it's primarily young women getting it from men on the 'down low.' " That's simply not true.
Despite years of speculation about so-called "down low" men--or, Black men who sleep with men while identifying as straight and having sex with women, too--the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found no evidence that they are responsible for high HIV rates among Black women. In fact, CDC studies have found men fitting the "down low" description are actually no more likely to have unprotected sex than their peers. Nonetheless, thanks to folks like Hughley, the "down low" meme lives on. Meanwhile, the far less sexy factors that appear to play large roles in HIV rates among Black women--such as poor access to routine STD screening and treatment or histories of sexual abuse--get ignored. [More text below video]
Yesterday, in a full-page ad running in Variety Magazine, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Black AIDS Institute and the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) called on ABC and The View to correct misinformation put forth on the the show.
The National Black Justice Coalition's Executive Director Sharon J. Lettman made this statement:
"We stand by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) years of research, which concludes that there is no evidence supporting the myth that Black women are disproportionately infected by men who have sex with men, and that there are several factors that contribute to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among Black women. Dr. Kevin Fenton, the director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the CDC, a well-regarded expert in the study of HIV/AIDS, has repeatedly debunked this myth."
In the past, ColorLines has featured comments from The View that inform viewers with progressive analysis that is missing from the national broadcast networks. The View has an overwhelming female audience ages 25-54 that undoubtedly share the information they learn when presented as fact. GLAAD is calling on ABC to not only broadcast a correction but also to feature HIV/AIDS experts on the show who can better illustrate how deeply this disease is devastating communities of color.