|SFDPHâ€™s Vincent Fugua, African American MSM HIV working Group consultant John Newsome and Supervisor David Campos. Fugua and Newsome oversaw panel discussions all day and conffered with Campos about was ultimately needed. Photo by Rink.
More than 80 anti-HIV activists gathered on Feb. 2 to discuss action against the rising tide of infections among African American men who identify as gay or bisexual, and men who have sex with men (MSM) at a Black HIV Summit. There was a tremendous amount of information dispersed on numerous handouts, and there was intense concentration on the paperwork that revealed surprising study results.
The SF Department of Public Health, the SF Black MSM HIV Working Group, and the SF LGBT Community Center held an all-day forum of anti-HIV workers and community leaders to present the problems and then reveal some possible solutions.
African American MSM HIV Working Group consultant John Newsome and group chair Vincent Fuqua coordinated the impressive event and are following up with a summary in a week. The goals of the summit were to gather additional data and feedback on the Action Planâ€™s findings and recommendations and forge a local and national community of leaders committed to helping advance an African American health agenda. Also there is a goal to draw increased public and media attention to the HIV crisis in Black communities and secure a long-term commitment to action.
Notable participants included Black Brothers Esteemâ€™s Tony Bradford and Norman Tanner, the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalitionâ€™s Andrea Shorter, the Black Coalition on AIDS ED Jimmy Loyce, Positive Resource Centerâ€™s ED Brett Andrews, and Project Inform ED Dan Van Gorder. Saving some of the best for last, Supervisor David Campos appeared toward the end of the forum and conferred with coordinators Vincent Fuqua and John Newsome.
One major possible solution is a gathering point, a space where African American men can come together and then receive services, probably where many of these men live- in the Tenderloin. The launch of a citywide Black MSM public outreach and education initiative is another solution to the isolation and marginalization faced by the men. Direct realization of racism in San Francisco and developing programs to alleviate its effects would be instigated. And patience among educators and the media to understand the MSM phenomenon (men who have sex with men and who do not identify as gay or bisexual) could be furthered.
Besides the expected upcoming summary, a possible repeat of the summit can be anticipated. Many safe sex educators live with frustration and depression when they have to deal with HIV/AIDS infections among their previously negative for HIV clients. The current barebacking fad, commercialized and otherwise, is an especially anger-inducing situation for the educators. Many of them work selflessly more than 8 hours a day and into the early morning hours to reach out to stop the AIDS scourge, while dealing with their clientsâ€™ selfishness and ignorance, much of it fueled by crystal meth. Increased support to end the scourge among African American gay, bisexual, and MSM can help provide the opportunity for long and fulfilled healthy lives.