A few weeks ago, Sherri Shepherd argued on The View that black men on the "down low" are behind the high rate of HIV infection among black women. Not true — and ABC is being pressed to retract it.

Fresh off its victory with the Today show, GLAAD, along with the Black AIDS Institute and the National Black Justice Coalition, is now hammering ABC for refusing to retract it, taking out a full-page ad in Variety to ask ABC to correct the record. They first issued a call to action on June 24, two days after the show aired.

The "down low" theory has long since been refuted as a sweeping explanation for the HIV infection rate among black women — and as Reuters reported in 2007, the myth is actually distorting the direction of epidemiological research.

First of all, the practice of straight men secretly having sex with men is seen across all ethnic groups....Research has refuted the claim that black men living the down low lifestyle are driving the spread of HIV, [Dr. Chandra L.] Ford said, but the perception that this is the case remains, even in the epidemiology community. She points to a dean at a colleague's school who urged researchers to study "the down low" after seeing a TV segment on it.

The view of black sexuality as deviant and diseased has deep roots, Ford noted, pointing to the way the public and the medical community viewed syphilis in the early 20th century as a disease of the black community.

Salon also cites a interview with a CDC official on why African-Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population but make up nearly half of the people of HIV, as well as 61 percent of the new HIV cases among women. "You need to look at the risk factors which are far more prevalent in the community - having multiple sexual partners with unprotected sex with heterosexual partners, injecting drugs," he said. "Those are going to be factors which are far more prevalent in the population and are driving risks."

Dear ABC And The View: Let's Talk [GLAAD]
The View Silent On HIV Misstep [Salon]

Related: "Down Low" Myth Distorts HIV Research, Prevention [Reuters]