The Truth About the “Down Low” and HIV

Researchers have in fact directly addressed this question and there's no proof they are driving the epidemic.

By Kai Wright Jul 15, 2010

A few readers have asked what’s wrong with D.L. Hughley and Sherri Shepherd’s statements about the link between HIV rates among Black women and men on the so-called "down low"–or, men who have sex with both men and women, and don’t identify as gay. The problem, as we’ve reported, is the link doesn’t exist, at least not in a large way. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researcher Greg Millet, who’s also a top AIDS advisor to the Obama White House, explains in the video below. (Scroll down for more.) Millet is among a handful of researchers, working with CDC funding, who have spent recent years meaningfully checking out the repeated assertion that "down low" men are driving the epidemic. In the video, which comes from a recent White House briefing on Black men and HIV/AIDS, Millet summarizes the findings. And here’s how he and his colleagues summed it up in the American Journal of Public Health in September 2009:

Black men ”on the down low” have been considered prime agents of HIV transmission in the Black community despite little empirical evidence. We assessed the relationship between down-low identification and sexual risk outcomes among 1151 Black [men who have sex with men]. **Down-low identification was not associated with unprotected anal or vaginal sex with male or female partners.** [Emphasis added.]

So there you have it. Not as fun as speculating about somebody’s man creeping around to sleep with his best friend and spread HIV. But then again, neither are most things that actually matter in making Black people account for roughly half of all new infections every year. Things like [a woman’s access to preventive health care](/archives/2010/07/no_free_pill_yet_under_new_healthcare_regulations.html), which would increase screening and treatment for the [STDs that help HIV transmission]( Or, how about a conversation about the skyrocketing infection rates among young Black gay and bisexual men who are NOT on the "down low"? That begs a question The View could take up the next time it wants to address HIV: Do Black gay men’s lives matter, too?