John Gress’ Video About Gay Black Men And HIV Is Good, But Is It Realistic?

After a report from the Center for Disease Control revealed a huge increase in HIV cases among black men who have sex with other men, photographer and director John Gress decided to make a music video about a young black guy who faces depression after being diagnosed positive, set to Marshall Titus’ song “I Will.”

It’s worth watching if only to get to the 4:50 mark, when Titus hits an insane note to rival Minnie Riperton’ “Loving You.”

The director explains his inspiration:

For almost 30 years the focus solely on condom usage and fear has led to a rift in our society. People who are negative run from people who are positive, and people who are positive run from people who are negative to avoid rejection. People who think they are negative are afraid to be tested because the last thing any one wants is to be marginalized.

I wanted to show that although an HIV diagnosis can be a traumatic event, everyone has people who will love, support and accept them. I purposefully only disclosed the HIV status of one of the charactersfor two reasons. I wanted it to be possible that the lead character went on a date with someone HIV-negative. The other reason is that we can’t tell who is positive and who is negative.

The video does a good job of showing genuine reactions to becoming positive and that an HIV diagnosis needn’t mean becoming shut you out from the gay community.

But does it address the reality of bi/gay male isolation in the black community? After all, the protagonist seems to exist in a relatively affluent and gay-friendly world, when in reality studies show that HIV thrives among gay and bisexual black men precisely because of the dearth of medical clinics in black neighborhoods and unsympathetic community attitudes towards gay and bi men of color.

No, but it’s just a music video and if it can help even one guy to feel better about being positive, then that’s a good thing.

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  • Katt

    I love the video. It was very touching. I just wish there was more diversity in the male actors, even if it was just one. I know its a video to target black men, but I’m very sick and tired of black being the new face of HIV/AIDS. Infections are going up in all racial groups. I think that is one of the major problems with the fight against HIV/AIDS. We are always targeting a group instead of the disease. No wonder we haven’t won.

  • darkskin bttms R survivors

    @Katt: Co-sign 100%

  • No Homo

    Black gays need to start using protection plan and simple.The rates are high in the gay black community because they are bare-backing. No excuses it’s no ones fault but your own.

  • Mitch

    @No Homo: well, queerty managed to make it to the third comment without something that was appallingly ignorant, racist or serophobic, so i suppose that’s progress :-/. The majority of new infections are STILL amongst white gay men, and the overall rate of infection is STILL very, very high, with a lifetime liklihood of infection that is daunting. The sanctimonious sero queens that frequent this garbage heap of a website need to admit this to themselves. The video is salient, and the director made a good point about the issues poz people face, but some idiot had to ramble on about how HIV is gay black men’s fault. Imagine if some dumbass heterosexual said “white gay men need to start using condoms” after a bit about the troubles we face. The vermin on here really are some kind of self centered human feces. I guess I shouldn’t expect any less pathetic a reaction to a video about the empowerment of gay poz black men when the editorial actually took it upon itself to criticize black culture. Hey, queerty, how about you and your asswipe readers get your own houses in order before you start throwing stones?

  • RLS

    Did Daniel Villareal get dumped by a black man or something? He really seems obsessed with us. Are there no writers on this site to focus on gay black men?

    And I cosign the issues with blacks becoming the new face of HIV/AIDS. We seriously do this at our own peril.

  • No Homo

    Blacks are the new face of HIV/AIDS.Let’s now hide the truth.A black gay man is much more likely to have HIV.That’s a fact.

  • Trevor Bartlet


  • jason

    There is no increase in HIV amongst black men due to them having sex with other men. You do not get HIV due to sex per se. HIV doesn’t have a black-detecting device on it which is able to detect skin color and thus affect you.

    If you are a healthy, monogamous black man who has sex with other healthy, monogamous black men, you don’t have any risk. You can have sex as many times with that healthy, monogamous person and not catch anything. You do not need to use a condom. You can go bareback to your heart’s content. You can have bareback sex everyday and you will remain healthy for eternity.

  • Catmann

    Whereas I dont thinkt his is gonna change the rate of HIV infection in gay black men much I have to applaud the effort. I know it’s just a music video but damn it’s nice to finally see some gay characters who are black!

  • Dave

    I’m glad that people are talking about black gay men who have HIV but they should also concentrate on White/Latino bisexual and gay men, and heterosexuals as well.

    @Jason-That’s good in theory but not all people are monogamous and cheating does happen among a lot of gay men.

  • darkskin bttms R survivors

    @No Homo: you sound like a muthafuckin fool…

  • Tackle

    @ RLS: I have been saying this about this writer, and his constant obsession with all things Black. This has got to be his 30th+ story involving blacks. I think his obsession comes from some type of infeority complex.

    I agree with @Katt: That we need to start targeting the desease instead of groups. A silly statement was made by @No Homo That Blacks need to start using protection and about so-called high rates in the gay black community bacause they are bare-backing. Like some gay white men aren’t.

    Well here’s something that No Homo, Daniel Villareal, and many others who hate to see blacks happy and living productive lives. According to studies by (Anderson et al.1999;Ku, Sonenstein, and Pleck 1992: Sonestein and Ku, 1994) Report that gay black men have a higher not lower rate of condum use than other ethnic groups.
    The AGI was confused about this disparity (So-called higher rates of HIV but Higher rates of condum use)??? Since (2002) the AGI has been investagating this disparity by the CDC. What they came to was that Black men were more likely to use publicly fiunded clinics that are more likely to have to report HIV/STD infections as opposed to private physicians.

    I’ll show you a situation where the CDC put there foot in their mouth and the vast majority accepted it without question. The CDC reported recently that one in 22 African Americans is at risk for HIV/AIDS. Sounds grim until you really know what this number means. According to Nicholas Jewell,Ph.D., a biostatistician and HIV/AIDS expert at the University of California, Berkeley says, “A risk of one in 22, for example is approximately 4.5 percent, he says.” it tells us that (95 percent) of African Americans are not at risk for HIV/AIDS in their lifetime. Similarly, it was reported that one-in 30 stats for Black women. That comes out to being 97 percent for Black women are not at risk. The number for Black men is roughly 94 percent not being at risk.”

  • Allen D.

    Like: The video.
    Dislike: This “cosign” thing.

  • jason


    I think you’re absolutely correct about the need to target the illness and not the group.

    The only time a group should be targeted is if the illness is unique to that group. For instance, if there is a gene that exists only within a group, and which has been shown to cause that particular illness.

    Unfortunately, we live in an era of identity politics where groups are mentioned frequently. Even blacks like to refer to themselves as a high-risk group. How weird, how utterly weird.

  • Tommy

    This is way I don’t date black guys.High rates of HIV.

  • tjr101

    @Tommy: It seems like no black guy would be into you either with a dumb statement like that. Don’t flatter yourself.

  • Stuart C.

    @Tommy: I doubt it. HIV Neg or Pos, you have short market shelf life. Poor genes, drinking, drugging, bareback lifestyle.

    Which are negative traits majority of people associate of gay white males.

  • Straight and Proud

    Wow, when white gays found out they are HIV positive they must feel an extra sense of shame. Afterall, they are told that HIV is a black gay male problem. Hmm, I will no longer feel sympathy for white guys with HIV. Since they are not supposed to get it, it’s their own fault when they do and NO ONE should give them support. Or, is it that all white men who have HIV got it from blacks? That’s funny. White guys with AIDS are N-lovers!!! That’ll be the new phrase.

  • mattydean

    Please play in traffic with your white hood on backwards.

  • Little Kiwi

    I don’t understand why in 2011, with all that we know, people don’t do what i do – use a condom every single time i have sex. every single time. even with my boyfriend. yeah. i said it. every time. every. time.

    so far, so good.

  • Mitch

    @Little Kiwi: I hope your precious tricks use a condom, douchebag.

  • Little Kiwi

    @Mitch, thanks for the message. So always insisting on always using condoms makes one a douchebag? FanTASTIC. I’ve never been so proud to be one :D

  • shannon


  • Mitch

    @Little Kiwi: No. Presuming that its as simple as “always using a condom” makes you douche. In my case, I always used a condom, but someone took it off when my back was turned.

  • John Gress

    Singer Marshall Titus and myself, video director John Gress, have responded to many of your comments with this video commentary Thanks for watching and letting us know what you think!

  • NatureCalls

    “I don’t understand why in 2011, with all that we know, people don’t do what i do”

    Because we aren’t you. Face the facts, most people in the world will never become accustomed to a condom-only lifestyle. Come to grips with the fact that many people for physical (not merely psychological reason) cannot adjust to condoms. It may sound sad and fatalistic, but man rarely if ever changes willingly. If eating meat for some reason caused humans to develop a deadly virus, do you think we’d all become strict herbivores unless there was an equally satisfying alternative to meat? I highly doubt it.

Comments are closed.