Monday, September 27, 2010

CDC Says 1 in 5 MSM Have HIV (And Half Don't Know It)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a press release announcing the results of a new study of HIV seroprevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) in 21 major cities.
The study provided additional insight into the populations of MSM most in need of HIV testing and prevention:

  • Among racial/ethnic groups, black MSM with HIV were least likely to be aware of their infection (59 percent unaware, vs. 46 percent for Hispanic MSM and 26 percent for white MSM).

  • While young MSM (under age 30) had lower HIV prevalence than older men, they were far more likely to be unaware of their HIV infection.  Among MSM aged 18-29 who had HIV, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) were unaware, versus 37 percent for men age 30 and older.

  • Among young MSM, young MSM of color were less likely than whites to know they were HIV-infected.  Among HIV-infected black MSM under age 30, 71 percent were unaware of their infection; among HIV-infected Hispanic MSM under age 30, 63 percent were unaware.  This compares to 40 percent of HIV-infected white MSM under age 30.
CDC officials note that low awareness of HIV status among young MSM likely reflects several factors:  they may have been infected more recently, may underestimate their personal risk, may have had fewer opportunities to get tested, or may believe that advances in HIV treatment minimize the threat of HIV.  For young MSM of color, discrimination and socioeconomic factors – such as poverty, homophobia, stigma, and limited health-care access – may be especially acute and pose particular challenges.
This is not the first time that CDC has issued an alarm about the rate of HIV infection in MSM, especially MSM of color.

Today, on the White House blog, Brian Bond, President Obama's Liaison to the LGBT community, wrote an article about "Focussing HIV Prevention Efforts on Gay and Bisexual Men" where he discusses HIV and his own HIV-status in the context of National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness day, which is today, September 27.

Today is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. For me, every day is an “awareness day” about HIV/AIDS.  I feel it is important for me to talk about it, because I am increasingly concerned that many in the LGBT community don’t. I am worried about the kids out there and the generation that hasn’t seen the devastating impact of this epidemic the way my generation has.  Now more than ever we need to be talking about HIV/AIDS.  Just a few days ago The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new heartbreaking data showing that one in five gay and bisexual men in 21 major US cities are living with HIV.  I am one of those men. I have been living with HIV since 2001.  (Emphasis added)
Gay and bisexual men make up roughly 2% of the US population, but we account for 53% of new HIV infections. We are the only group where HIV infection rates are rising.
These statistics are shocking and they demand a stronger, more focused national response that includes Federal leadership, combined with new levels of commitment and focus at the State and local levels.  These data also demands a reinvigorated commitment to ending HIV/AIDS from the LGBT community.  We all have a responsibility to reverse that trend.
I encourage all of you to read the Strategy and Federal Implementation Plan.  In addition to describing the challenges, it presents a roadmap for responding that includes increased attention on high risk communities including gay and bisexual men, along with Transgender Americans, Black Americans, Latino Americans and substance users.  The Strategy also calls for new efforts to reduce infections, and calls for us to take new steps to end stigma and discrimination.  In the President’s budget proposal for next year (that begins on October 1st), he also proposed a new initiative at CDC to take a more holistic approach to preventing HIV in the LGBT community with promoting sexual health and preventing sexually transmitted infections.

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