New Support Group For Black Gay Men In Memphis Created

Anyone who lives in the south, or the bible belt of this country knows that being gay, and being black can be a rough road to travel, but luckily there's help. A brand new initiative in Memphis is aiming to give gay African American men a support group to find resources throughout the city.

They are hoping this will break down barriers to people's physical and mental health.

Ace Brooks is a Memphis native and said he knows just how difficult it can be to be a gay black man here.

"There was just no supportive network, nothing that was visible. Everything seemed to be hush-hush, word of mouth or a friend of a friend."

Brooks said there is still a stereotype for some African Americans when it comes to homosexuality.

"The African American community is one of the hardest communities hit by the HIV and AIDs epidemic.

Brooks is the new Mens' Sexual Health Specialist at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center and started an initiative to network with other gay black men.

Their goal is to help inform people about resources available in Memphis.

"If they find out they have HIV, the next logical step would be for them to get care, but there are a lot of things that interfere with that next step," Brooks said. "And that's what we're here for, to try and facilitate and try and knock down some of those barriers."

But the impact, local health educators said, could be great.

"The way to combat stigmas is through education, and that's what we try to focus on. We have free HIV testing here at Planned Parenthood. You can come in without an appointment," Ashley Jones, Senior Health Educator for Planned Parenthood, said.

To African American men out there still struggling, Brooks said you are not alone.

"Find someone to talk to. You can't keep that bottled in. There's always one person that will listen. If you don't know who that person is, I'm that person."

The group will meet bimonthly at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

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