National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
September 26, 2014
On September 27 we will observe the seventh annual National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This awareness day gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the challenges we face and our ongoing efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS. CDC is committed fully to stopping the spread of HIV among gay and bisexual men in the United States and ensuring that gay and bisexual men living with HIV receive the care they need to lead longer and healthier lives.
Although gay and bisexual men represent only about 2% of the U.S. population, they account for 56% of persons living with an HIV diagnosis. In 2010, they accounted for 63% of all estimated new HIV infections. Both numbers indicate that HIV among gay and bisexual men remains an urgent issue that we must continue to address.
To stop HIV, it is critical that everyone who is infected with the virus knows it. Unfortunately, nearly 1 in 5 gay and bisexual men living with HIV are undiagnosed. Getting tested for HIV is the critical first step in obtaining treatment that can preserve the health and prevent further transmission. That is why CDC recommends that all sexually active gay and bisexual men take an HIV test at least once a year. Some men may benefit from more frequent testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months).
According to this week's MMWR, among the 416,730 gay and bisexual men, 18 years and older, living with diagnosed HIV in the United States and Puerto Rico, 42% achieved viral suppression at their most recent test. Young gay and bisexual men aged 18-24 had the lowest level (26%) of viral suppression.
To address these and other issues, CDC allocated $55 million in 2011 to be spent over 5 years to support community-led HIV prevention programs for young gay and bisexual men and transgender people of color. We are working hand-in-hand with our many partners in local communities across the country, and at the state and the national levels, to raise awareness of the risks of HIV among young gay and bisexual men. CDC also supports health departments in implementing HIV testing programs in clinical and community settings and providing behavioral interventions for gay and bisexual men at highest risk. CDC also supports HIV testing in pharmacies to ensure that even more get tested.
Additionally, CDC has released communication campaigns that focus on the populations most affected by HIV. One of the recent CDC campaigns, Start Talking. Stop HIV. was designed by and for gay and bisexual men. This campaign seeks to reduce new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men by encouraging sex partners to discuss openly a range of HIV prevention and treatment strategies and related health issues. Effective partner communication about HIV can reduce HIV transmission by supporting HIV testing, HIV status disclosure, condom use, and the use of medicines to prevent and treat HIV.
HIV Treatment Works is the latest campaign released by CDC that shows how people living with HIV can overcome barriers to get in care and stay on treatment and provides information, as well as resources, on how to live well.
Other CDC campaigns include Testing Makes Us Stronger, which aims to increase the number of African American gay and bisexual men getting tested for HIV, and REASONS/RAZONES promoting HIV testing among Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men.
In addition to the above activities, CDC supports effective biomedical HIV prevention strategies to bring about reductions in new HIV infections. These include:
- Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people who are at high risk of getting it in order to prevent HIV infection,
- Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking medicines within 72 hours of a possible exposure to prevent infection, and
- Antiretroviral therapy (ART) for everyone diagnosed with HIV to lower viral load, maintain health, and reduce further transmission
Our work to prevent HIV remains a challenge and a top priority for CDC. In the coming year, we will continue to work with our many partners to make all gay and bisexual men, especially those at highest risk, aware of these proven HIV prevention and treatment strategies, and of what they can do to obtain the care they need and live well. We invite you to click on the link below to learn more about National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and resources for action.
Finally, please check out the recently published HuffPost Healthy Living blog, "A Prescription for Ending the HIV Epidemic," providing additional perspective on HIV treatment, specifically combined treatment strategies, and the benefits.
Jonathan H. Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., is director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eugene McCray, M.D., is director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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