Howard University’s Muted Response to Revelations that H.I.V. Positive Student Had Unprotected Sex

2 Dec

By now, you’ve probably read the story of how former Howard University student William “Reds” Brawner  knowingly had unprotected sex while H.I.V. positive. If you want to hear my initial thoughts, check out my discussion with Dr. Boyce Watkins. Since our conservation, I’ve experienced a flood of additional reflections on the issue.

First, as Howard alum who was at Howard when “Reds” entered  the Mecca in 1998, my heart goes out to all my sisters who may be learning of Red’s H.I.V. status through online media. That’s not how it’s supposed to happen. It’s not right. Maybe after I graduated in 1999, “Red’s” H.I.V. status became a bit of an open secret, who knows? Either way, “Red” would’ve earned some redemptive good will from me if he had contacted the women directly, before he began taping the documentary. Maybe he did, or maybe he can’t remember all of his trysts, but either way, I hope he made an effort.

Second, I must say that I’m totally floored by the silence among my HU alum on this issue. On my personal Facebook page as well as YourBlackVoices, the silence is indicative that, even among Gen-Xers, there are some lessons which have yet to be unlearned.

What I’m saying is that it’s hard to figure that the same folks who drive the comment count into the hundreds at the mention of Howard homecoming don’t have an opinion on H.I.V. and AIDS. We bison are a vocal bunch and when all sorts of political and cultural discussions erupt, we’re usually on the front lines making our case, protecting the perimeter from rhetorical assaults.

But we bison are also burdened by the same suffocating tradition that motivated our community to bury any mention of molestation or homosexuality deep beneath the black community’s prevailing narrative.  For years, the key to the process of protecting our own people was the keeping of our own secrets. Keeping our bit of dirt under lock and key for fear of drawing the cackles of judgment from bigots was employed as a strategy for survival.

Back in the day, an accusation of child rape within the black community that made it outside the black community could’ve been used by racist diehards to make the case that black men were savages.  So as a consequence we learned to fix our issues internally. We didn’t allow any internal information to leak out for fear it would be weaponized and used against us during our weakest moments. That, I understand. And I’m still an adherent of the philosophy that we should all be doing much more internally to give each other a hand than what we’re currently doing. Assimilation has never been all it’s cracked up to be.

Having said that, I think it’s time to distinguish between meaningful isolation, or what I’d characterize as incubaterism, and detachment. Huddling up amongst ourselves and brainstorming for solutions is a bit different from ignoring stories that have the potential to damage our legacy, in hopes they’ll go away. Because whether or not an issue goes away depends on how we collectively respond to it. And I don’t think we’re responding well to the news of “Reds” sexual behavior, but luckily for us, there’s still time to change that.

What I’m saying shouldn’t be considered an admonition of my Alma matter, because it’s not. It’s a friendly nudge, as if to say: We’ve got to do better. We are the beacons, and as always, it’s our job to lead the way.


13 Responses to “Howard University’s Muted Response to Revelations that H.I.V. Positive Student Had Unprotected Sex”

  1. Pat December 3, 2011 at 1:09 am #

    If he knew of his status when he slept with those women he should and probably will be charged with attempted murder or similar charge.

  2. BlackBeauty December 3, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    Any person that would have sex with another knowing they are infected with anything, does not deserve respect or any consideration in my opinion.

    Scum-bag, or very ill. Nothing else to say about it!

  3. INLAW$U December 4, 2011 at 12:37 am #

    The man’s H.I.V. positive status is not an indictment against Howard University. What more should have the University done to stop a promicious student from bedding down with a much of women? It happens everyday on college campuses. No, I am not an alum but this indictment against Howard University is misguided……..

    • Anonymous December 4, 2011 at 5:47 am #

      You should check your spelling!

      • Anonymous December 7, 2011 at 11:36 am #

        You are worrying about spelling words wrong right now?? A$$hole!! That was silly of you.

      • Anonymous December 30, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

        Pointing out that spelling error “in-dict-ment” was the right thing to do. I was wondering about the intent.

  4. c-woo December 4, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    What is Howard University suppose to say or do?

    It was a personal choice for these women to copulate with a man before marriage. It was a personal choice for this man to do the same thing knowing he was potentially infecting other people.

    I don’t condone it but again it was a personal situation that has nothing to do with the university. Is Howard suppose to do something with people pass around STD’s too?

  5. Anonymous December 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    What really needs to be said? First, this is not news among my fellow alums ( I entered in 1997 and he and I overlapped socially as well.). He revealed this “secret” a couple years ago in a website and there was both considerable concern expressed by my friends and I then about people we knew who might have been involved with him and potential overlap in intimate partners. As an aside, he has actually changed his story since. Previously, he claimed he didn’t knowingly have unprotected sex but he couldn’t guarantee as he did a lot of drinking that led to sex. Now, he admits fully to his callousness to the lives of others.

    Further, HU as an institution can not be held responsible as they probably didn’t know and if they did, they could not disclose it for legal reasons. Moreover, there are plenty of people who knowingly or not carry communicable diseases that they could potentially transmit. For those who know, it is a moral decision whether to reveal or take steps to minimize the likelihood of transmission. On this margin, Brawner clearly failed.

    Finally, this is a large issue than Will Brawner, HU, and its alumni body. It’s not news that we should be practicing safe sex.The failure of infected individuals to reveal their status is endemic in our society. While there are some legal tools available to punish those who knowingly put people at risk (“Gangsta of Love” is a recent example), ultimately it is up to the individual to perform actions that minimize their risk through abstinence, condoms, better partner choice, or alternative sexual activities.

    • Anonymous December 5, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

      As a concerned person who may not be infected but affected by those that may have taken 1 risk to many my prayers are with you all. The man who was carrying knew he was sleeping unprotected so that should of given him great concern to get his self together get tested. Seriously ppl are hurting behind this and this epidemic needs to stop for this big killer destroy even more lives of our children unaware.

    • Anonymous December 6, 2011 at 2:24 am #

      you are so right i couldn,t have said it better thank god for you because you think before you leap, now i have lived 61 years never had any diseases i was very careful with my life didn,t even trust my husband he had to take the test before we married.

  6. Colette December 6, 2011 at 3:11 am #

    Well said! And even those of us who are not Howard alums should have had something to say!

  7. iesha December 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    lol i don’t care, if you KNOW for a fact that you have AIDS or HIV then it is your DUTY to TELL the person you’re sleeping with that you have a deadly disease and they are capable of receiving it.he either needs to go to jail or be sued,but people like him need to take this seriously and realize it’s no laughing matter.

  8. Anonymous December 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    Where is he now? Who are the woman he sleep with and why are they not speaking out? I hope the woman if sleep with tell other man they sleep with in passing that they could have HIV.

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