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Dr. Boyce: Heterosexual Men and HIV – No One is Talking about It and It’s Killing Us

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Everyone knows what’s going on with HIV and black women.  They are also aware that gay black men have the highest instance of HIV in America.  One group that experts are failing to address are heterosexual men of color and the role they might play in the spread of HIV.  The blog, HousingWorks.com addresses the matter, and I felt compelled to expand a bit here.

We all know at least one man who fits into this category.  He’s the guy who loves the ladies, and “lawud knows” the ladies love him.  His rolodex always has room for one more pretty girl, and because he’s “got it going on,” women are glad to enlist in his legion of sexcapades.

Some of these women know what they are getting into, but some of them might be genuinely deceived into believing that a man who’s dated 10 women in the past year is going to settle down and become the father of her children. But “out of sight, out of mind” can be a powerful psychological force, where it’s easy to ignore the other players in the game of sex when you can’t see them directly.

Here’s the problem:  Before he came to your house, he went to visit someone else.  After he leaves you, he’s going to visit the next woman. So, like a dog walking across a clean floor with muddy feet, he’s bringing in whatever germs, diseases, viruses or blood-churning infections that he got from the last woman.

Even worse, some of these men haven’t been to the doctor since they came out of their mother’s womb.  Let’s be real:  Many black men don’t go to the doctor the way we should.  Go talk to the men in your own family between the ages of 18 and 30.  Ask them how often they get annual check-ups or the last time they had a full STD panel to check for HIV, HPV, Herpes, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and all the other diseases that you can get from having sex (even when you’re wearing a condom or putting someone’s sex organ in your mouth – sorry, I have to keep it real here, this is too serious to beat around the bush).

After you ask these men questions about physical health, go ahead and ask how many women the man has slept with during the past two years.  Not to say that every brother is getting around (many of us are very responsible), but unfortunately, hip-hop culture has taught far too many black men to take pride in the number of sexual conquests they have (i.e. The Lil Wayne song where he says he wants to have sex with every girl in the world).  If a girl looks good and she offers you the goods, then you’re supposed to take it.  I remember one attractive woman telling me that she has NEVER had a man tell her no when she asks for sex.  I found this to be astonishing and I was happy to be the first man to turn her down.

What makes it easy for a “playa” to do his work is that many of the women he sleeps with don’t ask very many questions.  Some may ask about his HIV status, but that’s not a problem that a nice confident lie won’t fix.  In the heat of the moment, neither party may feel compelled to talk about any sexual interactions he’s had since he took the test, or whether he was tested for every STD, and not just HIV.  Even for those who’ve been tested, I’ve found it interesting how the “HIV-free” certification can lead some people to feel that they can do whatever they want, with whomever they want, without worrying about the consequences.

If I could bring together thousands of people and force them to be honest, I’d gather legions of women over the age of 40 to meet with a group of women between the ages of 20 and 30.  I’d ask them to overcome their fear of telling the truth about their experiences with STDs, and share information about how sexual irresponsibility can lead to devastating trips to the doctor.  The fact is that the stigma against sexuality in the black community can be costly for all of us, and women who’ve been infected aren’t exactly wearing t-shirts sharing their status.  Every time someone surprisingly dies from pneumonia at the age of 37, some may legitimately wonder if the person’s family is hiding their true cause of death.  This happens in countless families that don’t want to endure the shame of admitting that their loved one was HIV-positive.

My Masters degrees are in Mathematics and Statistics, so I am simply doing the math here.  Also, I’ve been a black man for quite a while.  When you really look around and see so many people not taking sex as seriously as they should, and so many black women being infected with STDS, you can’t ignore the role that the heterosexual male (and female) may play in the transmission of disease.  Black men must educate one another on the importance of health and sexual responsibility, and black women must confront both men and each other about the consequences of poor choices.

Finally, everyone should be tested for EVERYTHING on a regular basis, and after that, we should all be mindful of where we share our bodies. Sex ain’t nothing to play with.

 Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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18 Responses to Dr. Boyce: Heterosexual Men and HIV – No One is Talking about It and It’s Killing Us

  1. DARLENE ROBERTS Reply

    August 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    THANK YOU FOR BRINGING THIS REPORT TO THE ATTENTION OF YOUR READERS. I AM PLANNING AN EMPOWERMENT WORKSHOP JUST ON THIS TOPIC FOR OUR YOUNG WOMEN. I INTEND AND PLAN TO BECOME A STRONG ADVOCATE FOR THIS CAUSE. PLEASE NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT HIV AND ITS KILLING AFFECT IN OUR CULTURE AND COMMUNITY.

    BEST,
    DARLENE

  2. Candice Crowell Reply

    August 3, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    I am so excited to see this because I am one of the few researchers doing this work. As a third year counseling psychology doctoral student, I have presented my research on heterosexual Black male sexual health a national and regional conferences. I would love to link up and put some projects together to further this agenda.

  3. butch31 Reply

    August 3, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Why are we still calling this a heterosexual situation? If men are having sex with men that’s GAY. If the man switches up the sex with a woman, then its the swinger/bisexual, and having unprotected sex these days is plain D U M B!

  4. rosemary davis Reply

    August 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Dr.Boyce you can bring thousands of Women together within those age ranges to talk about this but this is all that it will be (TALK) the Women today don’t care about the Romeo’s of the world whose bodies are riddle with all kinds of devestating diseases all they care about is looks, and money and what can you do for me attitude.They don’t concern themselves with the after effect just the here now moment. And until they love themselves enough to say no thank you I don’t want you or what you carrying HIV will stay right where it is on the inside of their bodies screaming to infect the next victim.(STOP FORNICATION and ADULTERY and this converstion would stop period.

  5. anonymous Reply

    August 6, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Heterosexual? Somebody is on the down-low.

  6. elle Reply

    August 6, 2012 at 10:48 am

    at what age is it appropriate to have ‘the talk’ with young black men?

  7. Lowell Bethel Reply

    August 6, 2012 at 11:51 am

    HOMOSEXUALITY is the agent to spread AIDS. Stop the pro
    HOMOSEXUAL PROPAGANDA

  8. Barbara Reply

    August 6, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    You tell ‘em Dr. Watkins!!!

    All this uncuable Herpes and Gonorrhea they are spreading around!! It’s scary as hell!

    More stories on Black MALES and STDS. Before, I was getting tired of all your negative stories contributingg all the sex spreaading diseases to Black women.

    Now, do a story on Black males who date other races and pick up sex diseases (Herpes in particular) and bring it and spread to Black women.

  9. MrUniteUs Reply

    August 7, 2012 at 5:56 am

    The easiest way to transmit HIV is through the use of infected needles, or anal intercourse.. Blood vessels are ruptured and HIV gets direct access to the bloodstream. Women are at greater risk, because their membrames are thinner. If a man insist on doing that to a women, he’s probably done it with men, and is in the high risk catergory.

    1 out 5 gays have HIV according to the CDC.

  10. d-rhyme Reply

    August 7, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I agree. No proof whatsoever that a man claiming hetero is not actually bi or homosexual. Since HIV started with anal copulation in the seventies it still is the primary route of transmission outside IV drug use. No matter how much money bought research claims otherwise. Boyce, you trying to get paid too? Why don’t you discuss the porn industry marketing rectall intercourse. You know who owns the film industry. Rectal is marketed to be normal for heterosexuals.

  11. MW Reply

    August 7, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Nice piece. More people should comment on this.

  12. Mo Reply

    February 3, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Thank you about time this issue get balance. It takes two to tango. So it should not be just women being held accountabe men need to be held accountable. Men need to start going to the Doctor and get check. Just because they are not bent over in pain does not mean they are free of STDs.

  13. D.C. Reply

    February 3, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Boyce, now you are using your power for GOOD. More open discussion needs to happen here. This is one big issue that no one is addressing. I am single and dating. I met a man on a dating site, conversed with him for about two weeks. During this time he asked be about things on my profile, one being my “casual smoker” status. Because I am mature and like myself, I explained what that meant to me knowing he may object. He also asked about a statement I make in my essay… “I am HIV negative and require the same, testing and condoms is not optional”. After about 10 days we met. There was chemistry just like one the phone. He tried to get me to go home with him and I reminded him we were not “there” yet and I would only approach that with him after he was tested. We spoke once after that where he again asked if he had to be tested. I have not heard from him again and assume he moved onto others that do not require testing. It scares me that women are allowing themselves to be placed at risk. Please continue this topic and keep the conversation going.

  14. John Reply

    March 6, 2013 at 5:51 am

    I have a question for you Dr. Boyce Who is the guy on the picture I notice you use the same picture for other blogs? Or if anybody else knows please do tell

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  18. alwin Reply

    December 21, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Do you people know that there is many heterosexual men that have barebacksex with prostitutes? I can give you site adresses that my shock you. There is thousands of heterosexual men taht share adresses of prostitutes taht love bareback and they take a picture of her and have unprotected sex with her and then upload the pictures on the sites… men from everywhere …white,black, latino, bisexual, heterosexual,good looking, old, young, student, worker, manager etc…

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