CDC: 20% of Gay Men Are HIV-Positive, but Nearly Half Don’t Know It

  • Share
  • Read Later
REUTERS/Grant Neuenburg

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 1 in 5 sexually active gay and bisexual men in America are HIV-positive but that 44% of them don’t know it.

More than 8,000 self-identifying gay and bisexual men (or, as the researchers call them, MSM, for men who have sex with men) were tested by CDC workers in the 21 American cities with the highest infection rates. The gay population in Baltimore had the highest rates of HIV infection, at 38%, while Atlanta scored lowest, at 6%.

The highest absolute number of infections occurred in white MSM, primarily those between the ages of 30 to 39. However, young black gay and bisexual men (aged 13 to 29) had the highest rates of HIV infection per capita, and young Hispanic MSM also had disproportionately high rates of infection. (More on ‘It Gets Better’: Wisdom From Grown-Up Gays and Lesbians to Bullied Kids)

HIV is a growing problem in other groups as well. The CDC study also found that the HIV infection rate in heterosexual black women is higher than in their white or Hispanic counterparts, and even higher than rates in Hispanic gay men. According to another CDC study, HIV infection was the leading cause of death for black women aged 25 to 34. Fully 81% of American women living with HIV are women of color.

Overall, the CDC estimates that more than 1 million people are living with HIV in the U.S., and that 21% are unaware of their infection. More than 18,000 people with AIDS still die each year. Although the total number of people living with HIV in the U.S. has increased in recent years, according to the CDC, but the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable — an estimated 56,300 Americans become infected each year.

There is no denying that the highest infection rates occur in gay and bisexual men. Although they account for 4% of the male population in the United States, their HIV-infection rate is 44 times the rate of heterosexual men. African-American men and men under 30 years old were the two groups least likely to be aware of their status. (More on Multimedia: The Graying of AIDS)

When data on the two groups are broken apart, however, HIV-infection rates in bisexual men are lower than in gay men, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. Study author Gregorio Millett, the senior policy adviser for the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, explained why in a press statement, while focusing on the black population:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The CDC’s recommendations to reduce HIV transmission emphasize testing:

CDC estimates that the majority of new sexually transmitted infections are transmitted by individuals who are unaware of their infection, and studies show that once people learn they are HIV-infected, most take steps to protect their partners.  Therefore, because undiagnosed infection likely plays a major role in HIV transmission, reaching younger MSM with regular HIV testing is critical.

Read the entire CDC report here. For more info on National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (Sept. 27) activities, click here.

More on

Did the Rise of Cities Help HIV Take Off?


You should correct the error in headline and first paragraph.  Both say "20% of gay men" are HIV positive.  But the second paragraph clearly says that 20% of "gay men in the 21 cities with the highest HIV rates," not 20% of "gay men" in general, are HIV positive.  The 20% rate is almost certainly higher than the national rate.  Probably much higher, since most gay men do not live in the 21 cities with the highest HIV rates. 


The term "MSM" does not mean "Gay Men". This is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the facts. For at least a decade, researches have adopted sexual-identity-neutral protocols when identifying research participants. STD research methodologies are designed to correlate particular sexual behaviors to particular biological outcomes or diagnoses. Participants' sexual "identification" isn't remotely relevant in these studies and asking participants only serves to skew the data. Time editors may prefer flashy headlines like "20% of Gay Men are HIV Positive", but in fact the results here were MSM participants and not "gay men". MSMs include, for instance, straight-identified men who have occasional sex with men, (aka on the DL). These are not men who identify as gay, or even bi, however they form a significant part of the research group from which this study gets its results. It also includes the many non-identifying groups of men who have sex with men, at least on occasion. Researchers have known for years what Time chooses to ignore, or at least dumb down for its readers -- the complexity of human sexuality.


If you're a male and had sexual intercourse with another male....guess what?

That's homosexual activity regardless if they identify themselves as one or not!

Whew...some folk are deeper than Miles Davis


The sampling method is problematic, it misinterpreted the CDC report. 

The conclusion of the CDC paper is based on the sample of 8,153, which cannot represent the whole gay population in US.Also, among these 8153 people,45% were collected in bars and 22% dance clubs, which again does not represent the gay population in US. So it is a misintpretation to say "1 in 5 sexually active gay and bisexual men in America" in this news report.