The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a conference Aug. 15-16 in Atlanta that included new research on HIV’s impact on men who have sex with men in the black community. They also previewed a new campaign aimed at increasing HIV testing and awareness since the CDC estimates that a very high percentage of MSM are unaware of their HIV status.
The “Testing Makes Us Stronger” campaign is part of a $45 million, five-year initiative launched by the White House in 2009. On Aug. 3, the CDC released its new estimates of the annual number of new HIV infections in the U.S. from 2006 through 2009. While the CDC says there is “relative stability” at around 50,000, they also show the continued disproportionate impact on black gays and bisexuals.
“The most concerning aspect of the new estimates is the finding that new HIV infections among young black MSM increased by an alarming 48 percent during the four-year period 2006 to 2009. And this group, young black men who have sex with men, age 13 to 29 years, was the only group in the United States to experience significant increases during that time,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, the CDC director for HIV/AIDS and STD prevention, on an Aug. 15 conference call with reporters. “These new analyses underscore the urgency of reaching young black men who have sex with men with HIV prevention. We cannot allow the health of a new generation of young, black gay and bisexual men to be lost to essentially preventable diseases.”
CDC Medical Epidemiologist Dr. John Su followed up, explaining results from the first national assessment of HIV co-infection with syphilis, of whom black men and MSM are disproportionately impacted.
“We observe significant disparities by sex partner, race, ethnicity and age,” Su said. “Fifty-three percent of MSM were co-infected with HIV, compared to 9 percent of men having sex with women only, and five percent of women. The percentage of black MSM who are co-infected was higher than MSM of other races or ethnicities, 59 percent of black MSM compared to 50 percent of white MSM and 49 percent of Hispanic MSM. Among 15 to 19-year-old MSM, the significantly greater percentage of black MSM were co-infected with HIV than MSM of other races or ethnicities, 35 percent compared to 22 percent of white MSM or 11 percent of Hispanic MSM in the same age group.”
Additionally, “we observed a 167 percent increase in cases of primary and secondary syphilis among 20 to 24-year-old black MSM.”