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On the 'Down-Low'

/ Source: BET.com

Just a few weeks ago, Star Jones, co-host of “The View,” and her fiancée, Al Reynolds, rejected reports that their whirlwind relationship and engagement was in trouble because of rumors about Reynolds’ sexual preference.

Word that he had once shared a summer house in a gay section of Fire Island and attended an all-male Halloween party in his Speedos, ignited talk that Reynolds was on the “down-low” -- a man who doesn’t call himself gay or bisexual, but has sex with men, often behind the back of his wife or girlfriend. Jones and Reynolds dismissed the reports, saying they discussed their “personal histories” and, basically, that it was nobody’s damn business.

Men on the “down-low” is nothing new. In the 1990s, E. Lynn Harris’ popular books about bisexual African American men who lead double lives hit the stores. Today, the musical adaptation of Harris’ best-selling story of the same name, “Not A Day Goes By,”  continues to spotlight this controversy in the African American community, which is far more than an issue of whether Black men are deceiving Black women.

The issue of bisexual men and the potential for spreading deadly disease, including H.I.V./AIDS, is a major fear, especially considering the studies showing that African American women are  more likely to contract AIDS via heterosexual sex.

Government studies of 29 states show that an African American woman is 23 times more likely to be infected with AIDS than a White woman.  In addition, Black women accounted for 71.8 percent of new H.I.V. cases in women from 1999 through 2002.  While the recent number of infections has stabilized, the incidence of picking up the disease through heterosexual sex has increased.

Other studies suggest that some 30 percent of all African American bisexual males may have the H.I.V infection – and 90 percent of that number do not know they are infected.

In 2002, African Americans – who comprise about 13 percent of the national population – accounted for 42 percent of those having AIDS, and more than half of those diagnosed with new infections.

Researchers believe that the high incidence of Blacks having sex with Blacks only keeps the disease within an African American “sexual network.”

Within this “network,” Black women outnumber Black men -- the 2002 census data show there are 12.6 women 21 or older, compared with 9.9 million Black men.

And on the heels of the Star Jones story, marriage rates in the African American community are dropping, which means folks are having more than one partner at the same time.

Just a few weeks ago, Star Jones, co-host of “The View,” and her fiancée, Al Reynolds, rejected reports that their whirlwind relationship and engagement was in trouble because of rumors about Reynolds’ sexual preference.

Word that he had once shared a summer house in a gay section of Fire Island and attended an all-male Halloween party in his Speedos, ignited talk that Reynolds was on the “down-low” -- a man who doesn’t call himself gay or bisexual, but has sex with men, often behind the back of his wife or girlfriend. Jones and Reynolds dismissed the reports, saying they discussed their “personal histories” and, basically, that it was nobody’s damn business.

Men on the “down-low” is nothing new. In the 1990s, E. Lynn Harris’ popular books about bisexual African American men who lead double lives hit the stores. Today, the musical adaptation of Harris’ best-selling story of the same name, “Not A Day Goes By,”  continues to spotlight this controversy in the African American community, which is far more than an issue of whether Black men are deceiving Black women.

The issue of bisexual men and the potential for spreading deadly disease, including H.I.V./AIDS, is a major fear, especially considering the studies showing that African American women are  more likely to contract AIDS via heterosexual sex.

Government studies of 29 states show that an African American woman is 23 times more likely to be infected with AIDS than a White woman.  In addition, Black women accounted for 71.8 percent of new H.I.V. cases in women from 1999 through 2002.  While the recent number of infections has stabilized, the incidence of picking up the disease through heterosexual sex has increased.

Other studies suggest that some 30 percent of all African American bisexual males may have the H.I.V infection – and 90 percent of that number do not know they are infected.

In 2002, African Americans – who comprise about 13 percent of the national population – accounted for 42 percent of those having AIDS, and more than half of those diagnosed with new infections.

Researchers believe that the high incidence of Blacks having sex with Blacks only keeps the disease within an African American “sexual network.”

Within this “network,” Black women outnumber Black men -- the 2002 census data show there are 12.6 women 21 or older, compared with 9.9 million Black men.

And on the heels of the Star Jones story, marriage rates in the African American community are dropping, which means folks are having more than one partner at the same time.