Tag Archives: race

Poor, Minority, and HIV-Positive

Bad ExampleA recent study among homosexual men attempts to explain why some of them become infected with HIV while others do not.

For the new study, the researchers analyzed patterns of new HIV infections among 594 young men who have sex with men.

Participants were recruited from the New York City area between 2009 and 2011 and were 18 or 19 when they entered the study. At that point they were all HIV-negative.

Over the next three years, 43 participants became infected with HIV.

About a third of black, Hispanic and mixed or other race participants became HIV-positive during the study, compared to about 7 percent of white participants.

The researchers apparently studied such details as number of partners and particular practices–things that I don’t think I would want to spend my working hours studying for 3 years–and concluded that despite basically the same behaviors, the poor and non-white men in the study became infected at a much higher rate. The problem here is that while the researchers did study current behaviors–and we’ll assume here that the study participants told the truth–they did not study past behaviors.

If older members of a community behaved more recklessly, they would, predictably, have a higher infection rate. If the population of potential partners is more infected, then it is not terribly surprising that these young men would become infected at a higher rate. And since they have become infected, they will, barring a change in behavior, contribute to a higher rate of infection for young men over the next 3 years.

The researchers’ solution to this problem? Comprehensive sexual health education. Honestly, is the education necessary here really all that complicated? My city educates food handlers, people engaged in a far more complicated field, in a couple of hours, test included.

Comprehensive sexual health education can be very simple:

  1. Here is how you can expose yourself to bad bugs.
  2. Don’t expose yourself to bad bugs.

I’m not being simplistic here, nor am I being unsympathetic. Far too often, our society places young people in dangerous situations and then seeks to concoct some complicated solution. That’s what has created our epidemic of campus sexual assaults and it is what has a tiny sliver of our population of young men experiencing a ridiculously large helping of this still-dreadful virus.

While I don’t buy the whole “born that way” argument, I don’t doubt that these men have real desires. It’s not PC to say, “Just don’t engage in that behavior,” but I would urge them, “Just don’t engage in that behavior.”

While poor people, people who have for generations been disproportionately people of racial minorities, typically do not have a lot of worldly wealth to pass on to the next generation, there is no reason why they need to pass on this infection, which, undoubtedly is paralleled by other serious infections.