During 2001-06, new HIV diagnoses increased by 93 percent among young black men who have sex with men in 33 states with robust surveillance systems, according to CDC. In Milwaukee County, HIV diagnoses among black MSM ages 15-29 shot up 144 percent during 2000-08, state data show.
A new report suggests the local increase reflects an actual growth in HIV transmission, rather than a recent social network-based testing strategy and other intensified HIV testing efforts. An increase in syphilis diagnoses among young black MSM preceded the surge in HIV diagnoses, noted the study.
Compared to 1999-2001, new HIV diagnoses during 2006-08 among black Milwaukee County MSM ages 15-19, 20-24 and 25-29 grew by 143 percent, 245 percent and 78 percent, respectively. New diagnoses among nonblack MSM also grew, but by less, among those ages 20-24 (14 percent) and 25-29 (45 percent). Diagnoses declined among black and nonblack MSM age 30 and over by 40 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
In response, the Milwaukee Health Department last summer announced an HIV testing, anti-stigma, and prevention campaign targeting MSM. MHD partnered with LGBT health organization Diverse & Resilient (D&R), which has networked with other community-based groups to train 60 men to conduct prevention outreach.
Young black MSM are more apt to be homeless, poor and lack access to health care and information, said Gary Hollander, D&R's executive director. "It's one thing to be 17 and poor," he said. "Add to that housing that's vulnerable, being preached against at church, and being bullied at school." Communities must better address these issues, he said.
About $4 million from national sources has recently been granted to local HIV prevention efforts. However, CDC needs to re-tool its funding formula to provide Milwaukee with a sustained infusion, Mayor Tom Barrett said.
The full study, "Increase in Newly Diagnosed HIV Infections Among Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men -- Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, 1999-2008," was published in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2011;60(4):99-102).