Though nation-wide the average new infection rate for HIV hovered at 50,000 new cases a year, from 2006-2009 new infections among young men who have sex with men increased 34%, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Even more startling, however, is the rise in new infection rates among black men who have sex with men ages 13-29, which increased 48% from 4,400 to 6,500. In general men who have sex with men accounted for 61% of all new HIV infections in 2009.
“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,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in a release. “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 CDC contends several factors may be driving this trend.
“Higher proportions of young, black MSM are unaware of their infection than MSM of other racial/ethnic groups;” the statement reads. “Stigma of HIV and homosexuality, which can hinder utilization of HIV prevention services; limited access to health care, HIV testing and treatment; increased likelihood of having older sexual partners (who are more likely to be HIV infected), compared to MSM of other racial/ethnic groups; higher rates of some sexually transmitted diseases among young black men, which can facilitate HIV transmission; and under-estimating personal risk for HIV.”
The National HIV/AIDS strategy announced in July 2010 put an emphasis on prevention, and with the release of the new report, the CDC reaffirms this goal.
“To implement the Strategy, CDC is pursuing “High-Impact Prevention,” an approach that will prioritize prevention activities based on their effectiveness, cost, coverage, feasibility and scalability, in order to have the greatest possible impact with available resources.”
These prevention efforts will put an increased focus on the highest risk populations including men who have sex with men of all races, as well as African Americans and Latinos of all sexual orientations, who also saw increases in infection above the national averages.
The CDC also took the opportunity to mention the attention being paid to pre-exposure profylaxis (PrEP) as a new option for prevention, as clinical studies show the technique having significant success in lowering risk for HIV transmission. PrEP refers to studies on the use of HIV/AIDS anti-retroviral drugs like Truveda and Viread taken by uninfected patients to lower HIV infection rates, especially in cases of sero-discordant couples where one member is HIV-negative and one is HIV-positive.