July 25, 2012
Young black gay and bisexual men under age 30 are acquiring HIV at a rate of 5.9 percent annually, three times the rate for white men who have sex with men, according to a US study presented Monday at the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington. The HIV infection rate for black MSM over age 18 was 1.5 times that of their white MSM peers. The study enrolled 1,533 black MSM participants and was conducted from 2009 to 2011.
Of the 88.8 percent who reported being HIV-negative or of unknown HIV status, 12 percent tested HIV-positive at the study's beginning. The study sites were Boston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Washington.
"People are much more likely to practice safer sex if they know that they're infected," said Dr. Kenneth Mayer, a study leader with the Fenway Institute in Boston. "So if you have a lot of people who are assuming they're not infected or unwilling to deal with it, these are people who are much more likely to transmit HIV to their partners."
During the study, participants acquired HIV at a rate of 2.8 percent per year, while the younger MSM got infected at a rate of 5.9 percent annually. People with HIV had higher rates of poverty and unemployment, and newly diagnosed MSM were six to seven times more likely to have multiple untreated STDs, which can increase the risk of transmitting and acquiring HIV.
"The rates of infection that we've documented in this study are higher than the rates of many countries in Africa," Mayer said. "What emerges is a picture of people who are alienated from the health care system."
A continuing focus is increasing testing and treatment among more black MSM and addressing underlying socioeconomic issues that may put these men at risk, said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.