Secret Encounters: Black Men, Bisexuality, and AIDS in Alabama


Black men suffer the highest rates of HIV infection in Alabama. However, little is known about the HIV risks of this sector of the population, primarily because the current public health focus is on women and children. The dearth of research on HIV risk among black men in Alabama is addressed by drawing on focus group, elicitation, and key informant data from an ongoing epidemiologic study on AIDS in that state. These hypothesis-generating qualitative interviews were used to identify three high-risk scenarios: “sex for money or drugs”; “prison sex”; and “sneaky sex” by married or nominally heterosexual men. It was found that covert and unprotected sex among bisexually active black men was commonplace for reasons that included prostitution, habituation to same-sex relations during incarceration, and the desire to maintain a facade of heterosexuality in homophobic communities. It was concluded that bisexual activity is highly correlated with secrecy and unprotected sex. The risks of bisexuality among black men are exacerbated by incarceration, homophobia, drug use, and the prison and public health focus on surveillance rather than prevention.

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