HIV Testing Billboards Targeting Minority Communities Cause A Stir In LA

In the Meantime Men

African-Americans account for 14% of the population and half of the more than 1 million cases of HIV in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among all MSM (men who have sex with men), African Americans account for the highest number of new HIV infections. 

One advocacy group in the Los Angeles area, In The Meantime Men, is seeking to remedy that problem, and recently released a billboard ad encouraging HIV testing among African-American MSM. These billboards, up until recently, depicted two shirtless black men embracing each other, along with the slogan, "Our Love is Worth Protecting …. We Get Tested," and were strategically placed in areas with higher demographic concentrations of African American residents. However, due to recent controversy, these ads have been replaced with a much more generic alternative, which simply contains the word "HOMOPHOBIA" in bold letters with an "X" through it.  

Rev. Eric P. Lee, president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, explained in an interview with the LA Times how his community responded to the group's original ads.

"The immediate reaction of the community was shock…It showed how we have commonly dealt with homosexuality in the community, which is 'Don't ask, don't tell,' a silence that doesn't condemn or affirm."

HIV TestHIV Prevention advocates argue that this mindset is one of the reasons why men in African-American communities refuse to get themselves tested. For gay and bisexual black men, advocates say that the act of getting tested might "out" them to the rest of their community, whereas straight black men might refuse to be tested for fear of being perceived as gay. Jeffrey King, executive director of In The Meantime Men, argues that this very mindset is the exact reason why the group chose to release their ads in the first place, "to address one of the key factors in why we're seeing high rates of HIV, especially among gay black men."

"Nobody wants to talk about the fact that our kids are having sex and a large part of them are gay and are having sex with each other…One of the key reasons we're seeing HIV rates as high as they are is linked to homophobia in the community."

While stigma is just one of the many factors contributing to increased infection rates, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health in Los Angeles County, has agreed that stigma does play a role in African American communities, where MSM  "suffer from stigma, discrimination, from a reduced rate of acceptance for their same-sex orientation, and they also have historically had less access to healthcare…It's been a very serious problem, and we've been aware of it for years."


  1. andrew says

    The greatest increase in HIV Infection in the USA today is among African Americans. The highest % of people in US Prisons are African Americans. Most African American babies are born and raised by single mothers. Most African American males don’t have a High School Diploma. Where are the so called leaders of this community? They fail to address the real internal problems of this community, because it would require them to tell their followers to look into the mirror for the major cause of there problems. It is Oh so easy to look to others as the cause of ones failures but one never grows and prospers that way.

  2. WRONG says

    Center for Disease Control is full of it. How can a group that makes up only 14 percent of the population account for half of the AIDS cases? When the disease itself struck, the black community was hit the least hardest. Now all of a sudden, they make up half of the new cases? I can say that from my test center, we may have 1 or 2 backs per month testing. I’ve spoken to other center personnel and they state pretty much the same. So where are these numbers coming from?

  3. says

    Wow, ok, couple of things. The Minister cited in the article is for the billboard, he likes it. Other gay guys didn’t like it, it’s unclear who pressured them to change it, it sounds like it was fat gay guys that didn’t like the chiseled nature of the models in the old one.

    Now, the cherry picked bits of article you posted do not show that. What is the point of re-posting 45% of someone elses article? No commentary, nothing but a link. Just post a link then.

  4. andrew says

    @Bob: My comment is neither blind nor prejudice. My point is that if a community doesn’t recognize their own responsibilities for many of their problems, they will never overcome them. I believe that the African American Community is being failed by many of their leaders who don’t speak the hard truth to them. They simply seek followers and headlines.

  5. SamIan says

    Andrew hit the nail on the head. If there’s going to be real, significant change, it must come from within.

    The government can throw as much money at the problems as they want. But nothing will truly change until the black community changes. And for whatever reason, that seems to be impossible.

    (Now cue Derrick and Kiwi who will just take the easy road and dismiss this as “racism”)

  6. Derrick from Philly says

    @ “(Now cue Derrick and Kiwi who will just take the easy road and dismiss this as “racism”)”

    You said it, we didn’t. Like you give a shyt about this issue.

    And don’t “cue” me. Who the do you think you are, Martin Scorsese?

  7. says

    there are certain demographic groups who for very specific sociological reasons are having higher infection rates.

    and they’re not just grouped by ethnicity. there’s also an unfortunate rise happening right now in men in their late-forties: guys who managed to avoid HIV in those earlier years who are now, later in life, having slip-ups and transitioning.

    “no fats fems asians or blacks. no old geezers” – a culture of making people feel undesirable, which (hi, human nature) can inspire depression and desperation. and desperation leads to bad decision making, just as much as ignorance of facts does.

  8. Mike says

    Andrew I strongly agree with you that a lot of work has to come from inside the African American community, HOWEVER, they have every right to blame others. They are not decedents of Africans who willing voyaged to America for a better life and found a life more difficult than they expected.

    When you say leaders, i assume you mean public leaders, but the real leaders of the community are the elders. Many black elders grew up in rough times and have stories from their grandparents of even rougher times. So the leaders don’t have clean 21st century views about life that they teach to their kids. A bit of a personal story but, when I was in high school I wanted to be a quantum physicist. I told my aunt from the south and she said to give that up cause the only way I could succeed was to play basketball(I was tall). Fortunately I went to a private school in DC and was like “haha crazy lady, do you even understand what I just said? I said a quantum f**king physicist.”, but then I thought what if she is also telling this to all my black male cousins from the south whose role models are already the high percentage of other black males in jail. What dreams do they end up imagining for themselves when they are not good at basketball?

  9. edwin/elg says

    It’s clear that the people who demanded the billboard showing two black men embracing each other be taken down want black gay men to die. In fact, these people feel that black gay men DESERVE to die.

    The real tragedy is that black gay men are too lacking in self esteem to fight this homophobic abuse.

  10. Rowan says

    Well said Mike. As a black person I actually agree with Andrew and have had enough of a personal battle talking to so called public leaders within my relevant community as well as the area about the f*d up situation. People GET pisssed off. So I don’t bother anymore.

    But someone mentioned that they were brought to the US? This is very true because the reason why there is such a disparity is because the slaves taken not only were they taken from their families but they were taken from different tribes and THEN taken from different countries.

    To understand how complex Africa is would be to understand what an uphill struggle already was put in place for those people before they even reached the plantations in the Americas’.

  11. eselrahC says

    As a black person, I blame all of the problems on religion within the black community. I’ve seen it too many times. My family has used religion to stunt all kinds of critical thinking. It’s their way of “shutting” down arguments by invoking Jesus into the conversation or using some literal interpretation of some verse.

    This lack of critical thinking is then taught to their children. I’m not just talking about being passively religious here, I’m talking about religious thought invading every aspect of your thought process and life. It’s too prevalent.

    I do understand WHY the black community is so religious (look up old “negro spirituals” during slavery), but something has to give if there is going to be progress.

  12. Chevytexas says

    This was alsp a challenge in Dallas recently, charged with vilifying black males. The young courageous AfricanAmerican health officer stood up to the South Dallas AfricanAmerican female Methodist minister, a City Council member loudly unfriendly to the LGBT community. Religious bodies are discovering they have to do more than sit silently. It’s not a few communities, it’s really exciting to see a billboard germinate discussion.

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