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March 3, 2009

Gena Parker
PR Director



Manassas, VA ( - Two years ago, Sandra's seemingly perfect world with her husband and two children was shattered. During a routine physical, her doctor noticed Sandra had swollen lymph glands in her neck. Sandra didn't worry when the doctor ordered an HIV test; after all she was married to a wonderful, God-fearing man and she had tested HIV-negative prior to their marriage. Five days later, the test came back positive and Sandra was devastated. That evening she tearfully told her husband of her positive test results. Later that night he went to the store...never to return. She later discovered love letters her husband had written to his former prison mate. Today, Sandra and her two children reside in her parents' basement while Sandra struggles with depression, illness, and financial debt.

"Unfortunately Sandra's story is one of many e-mails we receive on a daily basis," says Joy Marie, the author of the explosive book, The Straight-Up Truth About The Down-Low: Women Share their Stories of Betrayal, Pain and Survival (Creative Wisdom Books-March 2008). Joy Marie is the pen name of two women who have survived marriages to down-low men.

Once the down-low was exposed, its link to the spread of HIV/AIDS in African-American women was obvious, despite the lack of scientific data. African-American women are no more promiscuous than their white counterparts, however there is a higher HIV infection rate amongst black women. One reason, as Sandra's story suggests, is the high incarceration rate of black men.

"Prisons have become a revolving HIV/AIDS factory in the black community," says Marie. "Cycles of imprisonment and release among black males help contribute to the high HIV/AIDS rates in African American women. Black men in the prison system engage in high-risk sexual behaviors and many of them continue to sleep with men upon their release. Many of these men lie to their wives and girlfriends about their homosexual activities and their HIV status as well. One prison guard shared how during his twelve years on duty, he witnessed countless married inmates engaging in sexual acts with other men."

"The black community needs to wake up and address this elephant in the room," says Marie. "Our community leaders would rather turn their heads than admit that the secretive homosexual practices of many black men are endangering the lives of innocent black women and their children. Black women can no longer remain silent and complacent amidst this epidemic. We have to take control of our lives. We must demand HIV tests in our presence. We must demand monogamy. We must demand respect and accountability from our men. In addition, we as black women should learn all we can about HIV/AIDS and how it's transmitted and the lifestyle factors that put us at risk for this disease, especially our involvement with secretive down-low men."

"There are many warning signs to detect men on the DL, which we addressed in our book," says Marie. "We believe the account of our experiences and what we have learned from other women will bring about awareness and a heightened sense of self-responsibility. March 10, 2009 is the National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and we want black women to become informed and protect themselves and their children against others who may not have their best interest at heart."

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