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Black MSM Twice as Likely as White MSM to Be Living With HIV, Researchers Say

December 4, 2007

Black men who have sex with men in the U.S. are twice as likely as white MSM to be living with HIV, federal researchers announced on Monday at a national HIV prevention conference, the Baltimore Sun reports. Kevin Fenton -- director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention -- said that MSM "account for almost half of all estimated to be living with HIV" in the U.S. and that black MSM are the "most heavily impacted." Researchers at the conference said they are somewhat unclear about why disparity exists, the Sun reports. A recent study found little differences in the rates of unprotected sex among black and white MSM. However, the practice was common among both groups, according to the Sun (Bor, Baltimore Sun, 12/4).

A recent study conducted by CDC examined data from 53 studies conducted from 1980 to 2006. The studies compared the safer sex practices of black and white MSM. "Across all studies, there were no overall differences (by race) in reported unprotected receptive sex or any unprotected anal intercourse," Gregorio Millet, a behavioral scientist at CDC, said, adding that "among young MSM -- those ages 15 to 29 -- African-Americans were one-third less likely than whites to report in engaging in unprotected anal intercourse." Blacks in Millet's study also were less likely to use recreational drugs, such as methamphetamine or cocaine, compared with whites, HealthDay News/Forbes reports (HealthDay News/Forbes, 12/3).

According to the Sun, one recent study suggests that the increased risk of HIV among black MSM is because they are more likely to be living with another sexually transmitted infection -- which makes them more likely to contract or transmit HIV. Other studies found that blacks were less likely to take antiretroviral drugs, which can lower the concentration of HIV in the bloodstream and the chance of transmitting the virus to others (Baltimore Sun, 12/4).

According to the researchers, all of the new statistics confirm that much more must be done. "This shows that prevention messages have to be continually refreshed, and responsive to those who are younger," Kenneth Mayer, medical research director at Fenway Community Health, said (HealthDay News/Forbes, 12/3).

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