"Out of Control" also reports the results of studies from the Universities of Chicago and North Carolina which shed light on a complex reality that helps explain why heterosexual transmission among African Americans is so common. Black men are more than twice as likely as white men to have multiple female partners at the same time, these studies show. Rates of all sexually transmitted diseases are higher among African Americans than other groups, and once those rates start to rise, says Dr. Jim Thomas of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "It starts a cycle. Because now when a person goes to have sex with someone, the chances that the new partner is already infected are relatively high."
And because homosexuality and bisexuality carry such a strong stigma in black America, African American men may choose to hide their sexual orientation. Men who have sex with men, and then also have sex with women without necessarily telling their female partners about their male encounters, are one of the topics covered in back to back roundtable discussions led by Jennings and Moran. Black men and women talk openly about sexual patterns in black America, denial, secrecy, and shame. "I know of few communities as conservative as the African American community, especially about sex," says Debra Fraser-Howze, CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS in New York. "And when it comes to homosexuality, it's a real problem. Nobody wants to talk about it."
Moran also reports on the role of the churches, traditionally the most powerful source of political and social activism in black America. Black churches have been silent on AIDS, says The Rev. Calvin Butts Jr., Rector of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. "When you see the numbers going up, you know you have not done enough," he says. Adds The Rev. Eugene Rivers of Boston: "I see the black church being challenged as never before. There are going to have to be some tough conversations within the black church, because the black church is the only thing that black people have left. And too many young people are dying because Black leaders have failed their children."
"Out of Control: AIDS in Black America" was produced by Elizabeth Arledge; Senior Producer is Kayce Freed Jennings. The Executive Producer is Tom Yellin.