African-Americans make up 41 percent of gay men diagnosed with AIDS in Buffalo, according to state data culled by AIDS Community Services of Western New York.
That number is just as eye-catching as federal data showing that young African-American homosexual men in large U.S. cities are becoming infected with HIV at rates two to 10 times greater than their ethnic counterparts.
John Morgan attributes such alarming statistics to an emphasis on "mainstream" safe-sex messages and says AIDS prevention agencies are not being culturally and linguistically sensitive to African-Americans.
"If you are not speaking their language, how are they connecting with the message?" said Morgan, director of the Men of Color Health Awareness Project in Buffalo and Rochester.
The recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found that 30 percent of young gay African-American men in the country's major cities are infected with HIV prompted a statewide rally today outside the Federal Building in New York City. The rally, which drew seven Western New Yorkers, was sponsored by the New York State Black Gay Network.
Morgan, who is also the chairman of the organization, said the rally was for increased funding for programs targeted toward the African-American gay community.
"The federal, state and local governments need to do more," he said. "They need to allocate new funds to programs and agencies working within that community."
The study also found that among young gay men, 3 percent of Asians, 7 percent of whites and 15 percent of Hispanics are infected.
Unlike white men, Morgan said, African-American men don't have support agencies and individuals they can identify with. He added that mainstream preventive strategies and approaches have been successful with white gay men but not African-American gay men because of cultural differences.
Because resources that are for prevention and education programs for young African-American gay men are limited, Morgan said the findings of the CDC study are not surprising, but inevitable.
"The information that was released is nothing new," he said. "We've been aware of this for some time. We have been doing a lot of advocacy with the CDC and New York State to get the needed resources shifted to reverse the disparity in HIV and AIDS education."
John Miller, vice president of education and training for AIDS Community Services, said young African-American homosexual men usually don't find support in the mainstream gay community or the African-American community because of their sexual orientation.
"Those numbers are devastating," he said. "The fact is an entire generation of young men are at risk for illness and death."
Miller said more funding is needed across the board because 12 percent of 2,400 young gay and bisexual men who participated in the study are infected with HIV.