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Black gay men twice as likely to have HIV

Black gay men have a higher chance of testing HIV positive despite similar sexual behavior as other ethnic groups
Black gay men twice as likely to have HIV
Photo by Terrence Higgins Trust

A new analysis on the sexual health of black gay men has found that they have twice the chance of being HIV-positive in comparison to white gay men.

The study published in medical journal The Lancet found that both white and black gay men displayed similar sexual risk behaviours across the US, UK and Canada.

Statistically, there was no significant difference in the way the different ethnic groups practised unprotected anal intercourse and sex with men of a different HIV status, number of partners they had, drug use and protective behaviours.

However, black gay men in these countries were proven twice as likely to test HIV-positive in comparison to white gay men.

The study echoes the findings of the Black AIDS Institute, an HIV/AIDS think tank in the US, which showed that between 2006 and 2009 the rate of HIV infection among young black MSMs (men who have sex with men) increased by a staggering 48%.

In response to the findings published in The Lancet, Genevieve Edwards, director of health improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust said: ‘It’s unacceptable that black gay men are affected by HIV in such disproportion, despite taking no more risks.

'Access to properly tailored HIV prevention services are vital, but so too are measures to tackle poverty, social exclusion and stigma around HIV.’

The authors of the study have also cited socioeconomic difficulties and structural barriers as possible explanations to support these results.

Their study showed that black men in the US were more likely to have finished education earlier, been incarcerated or unemployed.

Kevin Fenton of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) in the US has also drawn attention to the types of black diaspora communities in the 2012 International Aids Conference. He suggests that the movement of these populations has resulted in various degrees of economic and social exclusion for them.

These factors together could possibly affect the availability and choice of sexual partners, resulting in isolation in a person’s own neighborhood, in which HIV is likely to be highly prevalent.

Edwards’ response is in line with the recommendations of the conducted study, in which it was suggested that community engagement, social and economic structures should be addressed in order to stem such disparities.

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