April 21, 2010
"The news that Onondaga County health officials are investigating 10 new HIV cases among men younger than 25 is distressing.
"Dr. Cynthia Morrow, the county's health commissioner, reports that all the cases involve men who have sex with other men, but no connection has been identified among the individuals.
"The new crop of local cases, among men who are disproportionately black and Hispanic, reminds us that the disease remains a threat and that individual behavior can put people at risk.
"Because black and Hispanic communities are disproportionately poor, economic distress likely plays a role. Unemployed people with few options for entertainment and pleasure are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, including accepting payment for sexual favors, says Michael Crinnin, executive director of the Syracuse-based AIDS Community Resources (ACR), which provides education, resources, and support for people affected by HIV and AIDS.
"Equally troubling is the likelihood that young men are using social networks and cell phone applications to meet other men for anonymous sex.
"Both possibilities suggest a heightened need for educational efforts by groups such as ACR and the Syracuse Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.
"ACR is awaiting approval of funding from [CDC] for an education program that will target young people of color.
"At the same time, the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS is emerging as a compassionate and valuable voice urging education and testing, breaking the taboo of speaking about sexuality in black churches and communities of color.
"The response of the county Health Department in publicizing the increased cases is welcome and sets the appropriate tone as the community confronts this crisis.
"Morrow put it best: 'It's critically important that this vulnerable group receive the support services they need and there isn't any judgment passed. The worst thing we as a society can do is stigmatize people further, which may lead to decreased testing and treatment."