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HIV Epidemic Growing Fastest Among Black Gay and Bisexual Men

HIV Epidemic Growing Fastest Among Black Gay and Bisexual Men

Kai Wright, Colorlines | August 5, 2011

Young black gay and bisexual men are the only population in the U.S. in which the pace of HIV’s spread is increasing, according to a startling study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday.

CDC researchers looked at new infections between 2006 and 2009 and discovered that, as expected, we’re still logging roughly 50,000 new infections overall each year in the U.S. We’ve been at that level for several years. The study also re-confirmed that African Americans are a wildly disproportionate number of those new infections. Blacks accounted for 44 percent of new infections, despite being just about 12 percent of the overall U.S. population in the 2010 Census.

But CDC noted with alarm that, unlike all other subpopulations in the U.S., black gay and bisexual men between the age of 18 and 29 saw a dramatic increase in infections: up by 48 percent in the three-year span of the study.

“We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men and the continued impact of HIV among young gay and bisexual men of all races,” CDC’s HIV prevention director Jonathan Mermin declared in a statement. “We cannot allow the health of a new generation of gay men to be lost to a preventable disease. It’s time to renew the focus on HIV among gay men and confront the homophobia and stigma that all too often accompany this disease.”

The findings are dramatic, but they are not unexpected. They represent a worsening of a trend epidemiologists have followed for years, since at least the late 1990s. What’s really new is the CDC’s more aggressive and nuanced efforts to track HIV, a development made possible by recent improvements in testing and tracking technologies. Regardless, the concentration of the epidemic around not only black folks, but black gay and bisexual men is in fact alarming and long overdue for meaningful attention from both public health and the overall black community.


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