May 28, 2009
At its monthly board meeting May 19, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) for the first time released data on HIV infection rates among city men who have sex with men (MSM), describing the results as "sobering."
Between August and December 2008, CDPH sampled 570 MSM at various Chicago locations. Of respondents, 17.4 percent (91) were HIV-positive. HIV prevalence was 30.1 percent among blacks, 12 percent among Hispanics and 11.3 percent among whites. Black MSM under age 35 were seven times more likely to be infected than their white counterparts (30 percent vs. 4.2 percent).
Of respondents who tested positive for HIV, more than 50 percent were unaware of their infection -- including 67 percent of blacks, half of Hispanics, and less than a quarter of whites. Among the MSM unaware of their infection, 50 percent reported not having an HIV test in the previous year. Thirty-nine percent of respondents stated the primary reason for not getting tested was a fear of the result. Of the men who tested positive, all knew where to find an HIV testing location.
According to the survey, risky behaviors included multiple or concurrent sex partners, unprotected anal sex, drug/alcohol use prior to sex, and lack of knowing a partner's HIV status prior to sexual activity. Concurrent relationships were more common among blacks (37 percent), compared with 30 percent for whites and 28 percent for Hispanics. In contrast, drug/alcohol use was more common among whites and Hispanics, with 40 and 43 percent acknowledging use before or after sex, respectively, compared to 39 percent for blacks.
Nikhil Prachand, an epidemiologist with CDPH's STD/HIV/AIDS division, said the survey's findings mirror national data. Programs such as the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus already are working to address racial disparities revealed by the data.