Black gay men are contracting HIV in Atlanta in epidemic proportions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which stated in 2016 that one in two black men would contract the disease.
Christian Dacus is a youth HIV policy advisor with Georgia Equality. He said personally, the spike in the number of HIV cases for gay black men in Atlanta is not surprising to him because of the stigma.
“It's been spun in such a negative way that HIV is a punishment for your sins,” Dacus said.
Dacus cited non-acceptance from religion and family, and living a life of hiding a secret as the reason why -- despite education and advocacy efforts among gay black men in Atlanta -- numbers are not declining.
“When you're hiding something, you're less prone to go out be more careful, if you will,” Dacus said.
And though condoms are freely handed out in some nightlife venues, Dacus said for those who hide that area of their life, condoms simply don’t come into play.
Even though condoms can protect from HIV, STDs and STIs, “Condoms are used to being used as a contraceptive, as a birth control. When you don't factor in a pregnancy, you don't feel the need to use a condom,” Dacus said.
“It may prevent you from contracting HIV, but there are a slew of other STIs you don't want, so I think condom usage is still something to be enforced,” Dacus stated.
A May report by WSB-TV cited research that called Atlanta’s HIV frequency an epidemic and compared the city to third-world African countries.
“Downtown Atlanta is as bad as Zimbabwe or Harare or Durban,” Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director of Emory University's Center for AIDS Research, said at the time. “We should not be having an epidemic of that proportion in a country like ours. This is not Africa, we have resources.”