Extremely disturbing news on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. The number of new infections among young Black gay and bisexual men has increased by almost half, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Controls.
The number of new HIV cases in the United States has remained relatively stable at about 50,000 per year-but the soaring number of new cases among young Black gay and bisexual men is "alarming," according to government officials. New HIV cases among young Black gay and bisexual men rose an estimated 48 percent between 2006-2009, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The new data surveys the period between 2006 and 2009. This is the first time HIV incidence numbers were calculated using a lab test that distinguishes recent infections from existing infections. In 2009, the largest number of new infections were among white gay and bisexual men (11,400), followed very closely by Black gay/bi men at 10,800. Latino gay/bisexual men (6,000) and Black women (5,400) were also heavily affected.
CDC estimates gay/bi men are only about 2 percent of the population-but account for 61 percent of all new HIV increases. The numbers are more severe for Black gay and bisexual men. Blacks are about 12 percent of the population but 44 percent of all HIV infections. Black men are 70 percent of all infections in the African American community. Black gay/bi men are 73% of all infections in among Black [men].
"They're calling this 'alarming' but it's clearly past that point," says Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "Our house is on fire."
Most disturbing [is] the 48% increase of estimated annual infections among young black gay men between 2006 and 2009 (from 4,200 incident cases in 2006, to 6,500 in 2009). The startling disproportionate burden of HIV that this population shoulders stands alone and demands immediate attention at all levels.
Dishearteningly, the incidence data comes despite evidence that shows young black gay men engage in less risk behavior than their peers of other races, yet experience greater infection rates due to higher levels of sexually transmitted diseases, lower levels of HIV testing, and inadequate access to healthcare and treatment that can both improve individual health and reduce transmission of HIV.
A recent Centers for Disease Control study of more than 8,100 MSM found almost one in three Black MSM are HIV positive, compared to only 16 percent of white gay/ and bisexual men. The numbers were even higher in some cities. Black poz MSM were least likely to be aware of their status—59 percent unaware vs. 26 percent for white MSM. The numbers for younger Black MSM are even more startling: 71 percent were unaware of their infection.
The sobering statistics come at the same time the recession has forced many states to slash funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Those in the program are disproportionately black and many are gay or bisexual. In 2010, at least a dozen states closed enrollment in ADAP. Virginia recently closed enrollment in its ADAP program.