A new study of men who have sex with men puts a startling statistic on the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic: black men who sleep with men have a 1 in 4 chance of contracting HIV, even though they represent only 1 in 500 Americans.
More distressingly, HIV rates among African-American MSM are actually on the rise, bucking the general trend in lower infection rates:
HIV represents a lifelong threat for Black gay men. A young Black gay man has a roughly 1-in-4 chance of being infected by age 25. By the time he is 40 years old, the odds a Black gay men will be living with HIV is roughly 60%. One can scour the entire world and struggle to find a population more heavily affected by HIV/AIDS than Black gay in the U.S.
Black gay men’s higher risk of HIV does not stem from higher levels of risk behavior. Rather, their disproportionate risk of HIV can be traced to their poor access to health services, a high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, and early patterns of sexual behavior among young gay men.
The study Back of the Line: The State of AIDS Among Black Gay Men in America, was conducted by The Black AIDS Institute and released just prior to the International AIDS Society conference in Washington, DC, next week. It points a finger at both the government and the LGBT community for the state of affairs:
No one has responded to this health crisis with the urgency it warrants: Federal agencies don’t even track HIV resources focused on Black gay men, and state and local governments badly under-prioritize prevention and treatment services for Black gay men. Neither Black America nor the LGBT community has made the fight against AIDS among Black gay men a priority. And only a handful of private foundations remain engaged in the AIDS fight.
In addition to citing infection rates, the Institute’s study ranked 25 major cities to see which addressed the needs of HIV-positive black MSM most effectively. Washington, DC; Los Angeles; and New York hit the top of the list, while Gary, IN; Memphis; and Richmond, VA, were the three worst.
Recommendations included increasing access to testing, treatment and prevention services; reducing sexually transmitted diseases; introducing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEp) and building sustainable community infrastructure and the involvement of national leaders to make the fight against AIDS a priority.