October 1, 2010
CDC reported in September the results of a study showing that 19 percent of men who have sex with men in 21 major US cities have HIV, and 44 percent did not know they were infected. In Chicago, the study found 93 of 516 MSM surveyed were HIV-positive, and 53 percent were unaware of it.
"In Chicago, 88 percent of the [MSM] who were unaware of their HIV infection had been tested for HIV in their lifetime, and 61 percent of the men who were unaware of their HIV infection had reported taking at least two HIV tests in the past two years," said Jim Pickett, advocacy director for AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC).
Nationally, only 45 percent of those unaware of their infection had been tested in the past year.
CDC currently recommends that all MSM test for HIV at least once a year, or every three to six months if they take part in high risk activities (such as having multiple or anonymous partners, or using drugs during sex).
"I would recommend that sexually active gay men get tested for HIV two to three times a year, and ... tested for syphilis that frequently as well," Pickett said.
Pickett said prevention efforts need improving, with a focus on more than change at the individual level. He suggested targeting structural factors that limit access to care and prevention services. "In terms of HIV acquisition, it is not just what people do, it is where they do it and with whom," he said.
"These staggering numbers illustrate the severe impact HIV is having on gay men of all colors in our community," said Mark Ishaug, AFC's president and CEO. "The impact on gay black men is especially troubling, and completely unacceptable. We must redouble our efforts to address these appalling disparities."