Surge in New HIV Infections Among Young Black Gay Men
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- The number of new HIV
cases in the United States has remained stable at about 50,000 a
year, but a recent jump in new cases among black gay and bisexual
men is "alarming," government health officials said.
New HIV infections among black gay and bisexual men rose 48
percent between 2006-2009, according to a report from the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That increase was
the only significant rise in cases among the populations covered by
the study, the agency added.
And while it's great that the overall rate of new HIV infections
among Americans isn't increasing, CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden
noted that the fact that numbers have stalled around 50,000 "isn't
He added that "the stable overall rates mask a large increase
among black men who have sex with men in the 13 to 29 year age
group. We are very concerned about this trend," he said.
The bottom line, according to Frieden: "HIV is preventable and
we need to do more to prevent it."
He spoke to reporters during an early afternoon press conference
Overall, there are now about 1.2 million people infected with
HIV in the United States and about one in five don't know they are
infected, Frieden said.
"It is crucial that we work with communities, with health care providers, with people who are infected and with people who are at risk to drive down the rate of new HIV infections," he said. "It is possible to do that."
The new report was published in the Aug. 3 issue of the online
According to the report, there were 48,600 new HIV infections in
the United States in 2006, 56,000 in 2007, 47,800 in 2008 and
48,100 in 2009. These data are based on a laboratory test that can
tell new HIV infections from long-standing ones, the researchers
In 2009, the overall number of new cases were highest among gay
and bisexual white men at 11,400, followed by black gay and
bisexual men at 10,800, with rates higher among young men (ages
13-29). However, since blacks make up a much smaller percentage of
the population than whites, the number of new infections in that
group is especially disconcerting.
Two other groups hit hard were Hispanic gay and bisexual men
(among whom there were 6,000 new cases) and black women, with 5,400
new cases, the researchers said.
Still, only young black gay and bisexual men charted a
significant rise in new infections over time. In this group, new
cases jumped by 48 percent -- from 4,400 in 2006 to 6,500 in 2009.
That means that even though blacks represent just 14 percent of the
U.S. population, they accounted for 44 percent of new HIV cases in
2009, the CDC said.
In fact, the rate of new HIV infections among blacks was almost
eight times higher than among whites. Among black men, the rate of
new HIV infections was more than six times higher than among white
men, and among women the HIV infection rate was 15 times greater
than among white women, the researchers reported.
The researchers can only speculate as to the reasons for the
trend. They theorized that more black gay and bisexual men may not
be aware they are infected, or there might be a stronger stigma
within the black community attached to being gay or having HIV.
Stigma can prevent men from seeking out HIV-prevention
In addition, blacks may have more limited access to health care
and HIV testing and treatment, the researchers said.
Finally, since HIV is endemic in the black community, gay and
bisexual men may simply be more likely to be exposed to the virus.
At the same time, the CDC team said, some blacks may underestimate
the extent of their risk.
Hispanics also shouldered a disproportionate burden of HIV in
America. Even though they represent 16 percent of the U.S.
population, Hispanics comprised 20 percent of new HIV infections in
2009. For Hispanic men the HIV infection rate was 2.5 times greater
than among white men. Among Hispanic women the HIV infection rate
was four times higher than among white women, the researchers
Dr. Margaret A. Fischl, professor of medicine and director of
the AIDS Clinical Research Unit and co-director of the University
of Miami Developmental Center for AIDS Research, commented that
"this trend has been slowly emerging over the past couple of years,
so people should not be surprised."
The fact that the rate of new HIV infections has stabilized
overall was a "great thing a couple of years ago. Today, it's
terrible, because if anything, it should be going down," she said.
"We have a lot of work to do, or this epidemic is not going to
remain level with new infections; it's going to take off again with
For more information on HIV/AIDS, visit the
U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
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