Timothy Harrison, Ph.D.
New data released last week from CDC underscored the disproportionate burden of HIV being borne by young Americans. CDC reported that in 2010 about 1 in 4 (26%) of all new HIV infections occurred among youth ages 13 to 24 years -- that's 12,000 new HIV infections annually or 1,000 per month in this population. Of those new HIV infections among youth, 45.9% were among Black/African American males, the majority of which were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact. CDC observes that among the implications of these findings are "more effort is needed to provide effective school- and community-based interventions to ensure all youths, particularly men who have sex with men, have the knowledge, skills, resources, and support necessary to avoid HIV infection."
What is sometimes less recognized is the extent to which the HIV epidemic among African Americans remains concentrated among Black gay men, who comprise the single largest group of African Americans living with HIV. ... Efforts to reduce HIV among Blacks must confront the epidemic among Black gay and bisexual men as forcefully as existing efforts to confront the epidemic among other groups.
-- National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States
A similar recommendation was made a few weeks ago, during a two-day consultation on HIV among Black gay and bisexual men organized by the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP). Convened as part of ongoing efforts at HHS to respond to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy's call to intensify HIV prevention efforts in the communities where HIV is most heavily concentrated and reduce HIV-related health disparities, the consultation engaged a diverse group of 31 community leaders representing local and national organizations, health care providers, researchers, and state and local government in focused discussions with more than 14 federal partners. The group explored how to best address the HIV prevention, care, treatment, capacity building and research needs of Black gay and bisexual men and talked at length about the disparities that put them at greater risk for acquiring HIV and having poorer health outcomes after they acquire the virus. The consultation participants discussed three critical domains essential for reducing HIV-related health disparities and improving the health outcomes of Black gay and bisexual men, including:
- The current and future role of biomedical advances in responding to the HIV-related health disparities of Black gay and bisexual men;
- How best to address stigma and structural determinants of health that affect Black gay and bisexual men; and
- The current and future role of capacity building within communities serving Black gay and bisexual men.
- Watch a brief video about the consultation. After a series of panel presentations and lively group discussion on each of these topics, the participants began drafting a set of recommendations. "These thoughtful recommendations," observed Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, "will provide critical information to help us assess and improve policy, rethink and refine priorities, and identify gaps in programs and research for Black gay and bisexual men. Community input of this quality and depth is essential in order to achieve the goals of the NHAS."
Timothy Harrison, Ph.D., is senior policy advisor at the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.