Study: HIV Rates in Gay Black Men Are Alarmingly High

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A study of black gay and bisexual men in six U.S. cities finds that rates of HIV are increasing at a troublesome pace: each year, nearly 3% of gay black men become infected with HIV, a 50% higher rate than among their white counterparts.

The new-infection rate in gay black men under 30 is even higher, at 6% a year, according to the new data presented Monday at the annual International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. These numbers are comparable to HIV rates seen in sub-Saharan Africa, in countries that are hardest hit by HIV, the authors of the study note.

“This is extremely concerning,” Kenneth Mayer, medical research director at Fenway Health, a leading HIV/AIDS clinic in Boston, and co-chair of the study, told USA Today. “Here we are, this far into the epidemic, and we have these rates.”

(MORE: HIV Continues To Spread Among Gay Men)

The new numbers come from the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study, conducted between 2009 and 2011, involved 1,553 gay and bisexual men from Atlanta, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The majority of the men in the study identified themselves as black. Not all the men identified themselves as gay or bisexual, but all the participants were having unprotected sex with men. More than 97% of men enrolled were willing to have an HIV test, and the results suggest that many men are not fully aware of their HIV risk: among those who thought they were HIV-negative or didn’t know their status, 12% tested positive.

“The…study findings are a sobering wake-up call,” said study author Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr in a statement.

(MORE: Treatment as Prevention: How the New Way to Control HIV Came to Be)

Last week, another new study [PDF] by the Black AIDS Institute also highlighted the alarming rate of infection among black men who have sex with men (MSM). While only 1 in 500 Americans is a black gay or bisexual male, they account for 1 in 4 new HIV infections in the United States, the report found. It also found that a black gay man has a 1 in 4 chance of becoming infected by age 25; by age 40, he has a 60% of becoming HIV positive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that from 2006 to 2009, HIV infections among black gay and bisexual men under 30 increased 48% and that African Americans are overall disproportionately affected by HIV. Blacks make up 14% of the U.S. population, but account for 44% of all new HIV infections. According to 2009 data, 73% of new infections in black men are in gay and bisexual men.

“We have known that black MSM are affected by HIV at disproportionately higher rates when compared to other MSM in the U.S., but the [new study's] HIV incidence rates were extremely high,” said study co-chair Dr. Darrell Wheeler, dean of the school of social work at Loyola University, in the statement. “They make it very clear that we must urgently find and implement ways to stem the spread of HIV among black gay men in this country, and critically among young black gay men.”

(MORE: How the Global War on Drugs Drives HIV and AIDS)

The study found further that HIV risk among this population was associated with income and health overall. Those who tested positive for HIV were more likely to have another sexually transmitted disease (STD) and to be poor. USA Today reported:

Both increase the risk of disease transmission. STDs create inflammation that make it easier for the AIDS virus to enter the body. And because poor people generally have more problems getting health care, they’re less likely to be tested, know their status and be on treatment, Mayer says. Recent studies show that effective treatment can make patients virtually non-contagious, and most AIDS researchers at the conference this week now seem to see “treatment as prevention” as the best hope for containing the disease.

The study reinforces the notion that fighting AIDS will involve more than just changing individual behavior, Mayer says. Research has consistently linked HIV infections with poverty, suggesting that the country needs to address “structural” issues, such as homelessness, discrimination and economic opportunity, Mayer says.

More than a million Americans are currently living with HIV, a high HIV rate that makes prevention efforts more difficult. As Mayer pointed out, prevention becomes even more problematic among the small population of gay black men who tend to date other men within their racial group and face even higher risks of being exposed to HIV.

Recent data show that the disparities between black and white gay men don’t come down to risky behavior. Blacks and whites tend to have similar numbers of sexual partners and are equally likely to to have risky sex. CDC data also suggest that the higher rate in black gay men isn’t attributable to jail time or circumcision rates.

Further analysis of data from the HPTN study will focus on how behavioral and societal factors affect HIV risk in gay black men, including incarceration, childhood experience, social and sexual networks, discrimination and homophobia, and access to health care.

MORE: Truvada: 5 Things to Know About the First Drug to Prevent HIV

34 comments
daisygirl12
daisygirl12

The root issue is: Lack of self control, Lack of self restraint, and lack of respect for ones self. Until people care enough about their own bodies to really protect themselves above all else (sex slavery, rape, intimate partner sex violence notwithstanding), the HIV rates will continiue to climb no matter what people group.

PeterGuy
PeterGuy

@daisygirl12 No, my dear girl. That is pure ignorance. Let me break it down for you:. when you're sick and poor and malnourished it is easier to get infected because your immune system is compromised due to poverty, poor health and overall wretchedness. Quit shaming the victim and instead help them. Impoverished gay black men need better healthcare options. Some have none at all. Is it any wonder that they succumb to infection and then waste away and die in a heartbeat, whereas gay white men live longer and are less likely to get infected thanks to better healthcare and overall better health and wellness. It's all about money, social status and access to resources.

Yodle11
Yodle11

Black men are different. They usually have several sexual partners whereas men of other races are in a monogamous relationship with one partner.

DoctorMorris
DoctorMorris

Big lie. I know whites who cheat on their partners too. And white gays prefer open relationships. Meaning they will sleep with anyone, no strings attached. 

Yodle11
Yodle11

Black men are known for having a far higher sexual drive than other races of men. This is why they have higher instances of AIDS/HIV.

DoctorMorris
DoctorMorris

If you test more Blacks, of course the data will skew toward them. For the record, there aren't many Blacks in Los Angeles to start with so I don't know how they managed to get as much data to cause panic and fear among them. I hate reading biased news from misinformed reporters feeding off bad information. 

Jack Page
Jack Page

According to PozKiss,c om, 28% of black, 18% of Hispanic, and 16% of white men tested positive for HIV. Positive rate among black gay men is #1.

DoctorMorris
DoctorMorris

they tested more blacks than white. that's the reason. And no the infection rate isn't highest among Blacks. 

Yodle11
Yodle11

Black men are different. They usually have several sexual partners whereas men of other races are in a monogamous relationship with one partner.

stdsingles
stdsingles

It seems this is the reason why I see more and more black faces at Pozkiss,com,  a community for gay with HIV or other STDs.

doubleducks
doubleducks

 The rate of HIV infection is also very high among black females. So the problem is cultural - they are having unprotected sex too often.

Jardin J
Jardin J

And have less access to affordable care and are less likely to have had comprehensive sex education.

It's quite easy to say "It's their problem because they did something wrong" and divorce ourselves from our responsibilities to our community. But if you're neighbor's house is burning down, you have a problem too.

doubleducks
doubleducks

OK, so the answer according to the `expert' is wealth redistribution, not individual behavior. Idiot. 

dinkster
dinkster

Is it overlapping statistics? How many are drug users?

jpo321
jpo321

The down low culture among blacks likely feeds this. They don't tell their partners, don't get tested, and don't know they're spreading the infection. That and there is still a pervasive attitude among young men, black and white, that they are careful enough or that this guy surely can't have it.

lightandlove50
lightandlove50

It is SIN..and God says this is what happens when people choose to not obey the word of God..They are doing it to themselves.

Leannatj
Leannatj

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Leannatj
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WhitneyHook
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lib1
lib1

Not likely. If this were the case, the report would mention the number of HIV infections amongst black women. This article is reiterating the fact that people need to get tested and have safe sex at all times.

James Moore
James Moore

friggin disgusting! Use a condom knuckle draggers.

Yodle11
Yodle11

Need I point out that those "knuckle Draggers" are HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER BY WHITE WOMEN.

charles b
charles b

I dont think you can say that, right?