With the rapid increase in black women contracting HIV, the black community is looking for reasons why.
J. L. King, best-selling author of “On the Down Low,” offered his answers to the student body of Florida A&M University Wednesday night in Lee Hall Auditorium.
King said men who live on the “down low,” or men who have sex with men but do not consider themselves homosexual or bisexual, are contributing to the spread of HIV because they think they won’t get it.
“Brothers don’t think that it could happen to them, and that is why we are losing so many of them.”
Before starting his lecture, King gave the mostly female audience three disclaimers.
” No. 1, not all African-American men are on the ‘down low’. Don’t start accusing your man of being on the ‘down low’ when you leave here,” King said.
“No. 2, black men are not the only race living on the ‘down low’,” King said, adding AIDS is no longer a gay white male’s disease. “And No. 3, I am no longer on the ‘DL’.”
King, who currently lives in Chicago, said he was delivered from the behavior of hiding from and lying about his sexual preference.
Then King asked the women in the audience a few personal questions, starting with how many of them know someone who has more than one baby’s father. Initially, the audience members were willing and honest participants, until the questions turned sexual.
When he asked, “How many of you have had a STD (a sexually transmitted disease)?”, no one raised his or her hand.
King said the fact many people don’t know if their status as it relates to HIV is also a factor in how quickly the disease is being spread.
He also advised women to stop practicing unprotected sex because a man looks like he doesn’t have a disease.
“You cannot continue to judge a book by its cover,” King said.
To bring the message home to college students, King relayed a story of a female college student who contracted HIV the first time she had sex.
“The young woman said she thought about asking him to use a condom, but didn’t want to lose him,” King said.
King said many young women act out of desperation or fear of not having a man, which further puts them at risk of getting the deadly virus. He added that some women will be or have already been involved with men who are on the “down low.”
“Some of you will even marry a ‘down low’ brother,” King said.
FAMU was just one stop on King’s tour of historically black colleges and universities.
He said “down low” brothers are prevalent on college campuses and other places, such as, the black church and black fraternities.
King’s visit was part of the Student Government Association’s University-wide Health Week.
Irene Aihie, the Surgeon General for the SGA, said King was invited to promote HIV and AIDS awareness.
“I felt like bringing (King) here to discuss the situation of the “down low” brothers, men who sleep with other men then go back home to their wives, was important,” said the a 23-year-old pharmacy student from Miami.
“It is a serious, serious factor in the abrupt increase in HIV cases in African-American women.”
Some students were very receptive of King’s message.
“I thought it was very informative, and it was much needed. I wish more men would’ve been in the audience though,” said Kayla Clemens, 22, a nursing student from Jacksonville.
After the lecture, King said his No. 1 message to students is simple.
“HIV is preventable. Always wear protection: It will save your life.”
For those who missed King Wednesday, he is scheduled to be in Tallahassee in February to speak at Florida State University.