Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Blacks, Latinos and condomless gay sex parties

Associated Press:

The invitation arrived in Tokes Osubu’s e-mail inbox last Monday, and the contents astounded him: Black and Latino men were being invited to attend a gay sex party this weekend where condoms would be banned. Show up with a condom, the invitation said, and you’ll be asked to leave.

"I was shocked and disgusted," said Osubu, executive director of Gay Men of African Descent, a Harlem-based nonprofit group battling the HIV/AIDS epidemic among black gay men.

Osubu sent the party’s promoter a letter urging him to reconsider the policy, and the group planned a protest outside the East Harlem building where the party was held.

The party comes just weeks before the 25th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic and at a time when black men are facing startlingly high HIV infection rates. Nearly half of black men who have sex with men are HIV-positive, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

"I’m sick of 18-year-olds coming in here HIV-positive," Osubu, 46, said in his East Harlem office. "It’s got to stop."

"We want to send a strong message to" the party’s promoter "and promoters like him that it’s unacceptable, and to the larger community that we’re not all complicit in this behavior. We’re not just idle bystanders."

The invitation lists an address and apartment number and a cell phone number. The promoter returned a message seeking comment but refused to identify himself and repeatedly said the party was private.

Apparently the party was the third. In the graphic invitation, the host thanked the "54" people who attended the last gathering. Other sex parties are held in New York and other major cities, but typically offer condoms and sometimes encourage safe sex, Tokes and others said.

The invitation to the recent warned: "Anyone caught using jimmies [condoms] will be asked to leave with no refund given!!" (The entry fee is $5–$10.)

Others in the black gay community have condemned the policy. Activist and blogger Keith Boykins wrote on his web site: "It’s the year 2006…and some men are still carrying on like it’s 1976," wrote Boykins, who prefaced his comments by saying he (like Osubu and others) condemns the no-condom policy, not sex among consenting adults.

"It’s time to stop this irresponsible behavior," Boykins wrote. "It’s time to put an end to condomless sex parties."

Between Jan. 1 and March 31 in 2005, black New Yorkers, who are 26 percent of the city’s population, accounted for more than half — 52.7 percent - of the city’s AIDS-related deaths, with Hispanics accounting for one-third of the deaths. Blacks also accounted for more than half — 52.9 percent — of new HIV diagnoses during that period, with Hispanics accounting for 30 percent, the city’s health department said.

Nationally, in 2004, the HIV diagnosis rate for black men was seven times the rate for white men, twice the rate for Hispanic men and nearly twice the rate for black women, the CDC says. Most infections among all men result from gay sex, the CDC says.

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Secret gay encounters of black men could be raising women's infection rate

AIDS: The black plague

US black women 'unaware' of HIV risk

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