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HIV Rates Grow Among Young Black Gay Men In USA

Overall, HIV infections in the USA have remained stabe at about 50,000 new cases each year between 2006 through 2009. However, among young black MSM (men who have sex with men) rates have increased at an alarming rate, according to a new CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report.

The new estimates have been included in an article in the journal PLoS ONE. The new estimates include lab tests that can differentiate between recent and long-standing HIV infections.

CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., said:

"More than 30 years into the HIV epidemic, about 50,000 people in this country still become infected each year. Not only do men who have sex with men continue to account for most new infections, young gay and bisexual men are the only group in which infections are increasing, and this increase is particularly concerning among young African American MSM . HIV infections can be prevented. By getting tested, reducing risky behaviors, and getting treatment, people can protect themselves and their loved ones."

Below are some highlighted data from the report:

  • New infections 2006 - 48,600
  • New infections 2007 - 56,000
  • New infections 2008 - 47,800
  • New infections 2009 - 48,100

Over the four-year period, there was no statistically significant change in HIV incidence - an average of about 50,000 new cases annually.

Below is a breakdown of new infections in 2009 according to ethnic/racial groups:

  • White MSM - 11,400
  • Black MSM - 10,800
  • Hispanic MSM - 6,000
  • Black females - 5,400

Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said:

"While we're encouraged that prevention efforts have helped avoid overall increases in HIV infections in the United States, and have significantly reduced new infections from the peak in the mid-1980s, we have plateaued at an unacceptably high level. Without intensified HIV prevention efforts, we are likely to face an era of rising infection rates and higher health care costs for a preventable condition that already affects more than one million people in this country."

Gay and Bisexual Males

The most heavily affected group for new HIV infections continues to be MSM (men who have sex with men).

Below are some highlighted statistics:

  • MSM make up 2% of the US population
  • MSM made up 61% of all new HIV infections in 2009
  • MSM aged 13 to 29 made up 27% of all new infections in 2009
  • New HIV infection rates for young, black MSM increased 48% from 2006 through 2009

Experts believe that several factors are impacting on this trend:

  • Many young, black MSM do not know about their HIV status
  • Stigma linked to homosexuality and HIV make it less likely that some ethnic/racial groups seek HIV prevention services
  • Young, black males have limited access to health care, HIV treatment and testing
  • Younger, black MSM are more likely to have older sexual partners. A higher percentage of older MSM are HIV infected.
  • STD rates are higher among young black men, which can facilitate HIV transmission

Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said:

"We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men and the continued impact of HIV among young gay and bisexual men of all races. We cannot allow the health of a new generation of gay men to be lost to a preventable disease. It's time to renew the focus on HIV among gay men and confront the homophobia and stigma that all too often accompany this disease."

African Americans and Hispanics

14% of the US population are African-Americans, while 44% of new infections in 2009 occurred among African-Americans.

African-Americans have an HIV infection rate eight times greater than that of whites.

16% of the US population is made up of Hispanics. Hispanics account for 20% of all new HIV infections. Hispanics have an HIV infection rate three times higher than that of whites.

Fenton said:

"HIV remains one of the most glaring health disparities in this country. While we all have individual responsibility to protect ourselves from HIV infection, the research clearly shows that individual risk behavior alone doesn't account for the significant racial disparities in HIV. It is essential to understand the underlying factors that contribute to these disparities, such as poverty, discrimination and lack of access to health care."

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