The numbers are appalling. Appalling.
As the US prepares to host its first International AIDS conference, the country faces a disgraceful rise of new HIV infections among young black gay men.
This week, the Black AIDS Institute, a national HIV/AIDS think tank, released 'Back of the Line.' The publication painted a troublesome portrait of HIV/AIDS and gay black men.
'At a time when the LGBT community—and, indeed, American society as a whole—has largely moved on, HIV/AIDS continues to be a leading cause of death for Black men who have sex with men,' writes Phil Wilson, the Institute's CEO and president. 'By the time a Black gay man reaches age 25, he stands a roughly one-in-four chance of being infected with HIV. By age 40, the odds reach an astonishing 60 percent.'
Between 2006 and 2009 the rate of HIV infection among young black MSMs (men who have sex with men) increased by a staggering 48 percent. This spike occurs while overall transmissions rates in the country are in decline.
The report also notes that compared to their white peers, black MSMs 'are significantly less likely to be alive three years after testing HIV positive.'
What's disgraceful about these figures is that they are not new.
'Over the years, reports in leading medical journals repeatedly emphasized the epidemic’s unparalleled effects on Black MSM,' the report argues. 'In 2005, CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] disclosed that 46 percent of Black MSM surveyed in five U.S. cities were HIV-positive—a level of infection more than twice as high as was found among white MSM.'
Multiple reasons for these discrepancies are offered. Reduced health care options for black gay men. For young black gays, 'sexual behavior patterns' and significant odds of being involved with older sex partners. Finally, despite the knowledge of these numbers federal agencies and leaders from the black, and LGBT, communities have failed to acknowledge the crisis.
While there are multiple suggestions to stem the tide, the most important one is to make HIV infection with black gay men a primary issue.
'Every stakeholder in the AIDS response—including government leaders, Black institutions, LGBT organizations, philanthropic agencies,the private sector, and the organized AIDS establishment—must recognize the fight against AIDS among Black MSM as a central priority.'