AIDS Risk Higher for Gay, Bisexual Black Men

 Called segment of population most in need of prevention, treatment help

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Black men who are gay or bisexual are “at the center” of the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic and should be a primary focus of testing, service and treatment efforts, a federal official and advocates said Wednesday.

Black men who have sex with men (MSM) account for one in four new HIV infections, even though they represent only one in 500 Americans, the Black AIDS Institute said in its new report, “Back of the Line: The State of AIDS Among Black Gay Men in America 2012.”

This infection rate climbs quickly with age for these men: The odds of a black MSM becoming infected with HIV is about 8 percent at age 20 and nearly 60 percent by age 40.

Moreover, unless they receive treatment, black MSM “are significantly less likely to be alive three years after testing HIV-positive,” when compared to white MSM, said the report.

Black MSM “continue to be first in line when it comes to need, but remain at the back of the line when it comes to assistance,” said Phill Wilson, founder and executive director of the Black AIDS Institute.

“We need a new mindset,” Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of theNational Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a media briefing at the Kaiser Family Foundation in the District.

Black MSM “are not simply a fringe group in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Fenton. “They are, in fact, at the center of the nation’s epidemic, and we cannot achieve an AIDS-free generation, or the end of AIDS in the United States, unless we make major inroads in the fight against HIV among black gay men.”

Panelists talked about stigma, homophobia and other heightened risk factors for black MSM.

Research indicates that black MSM “are no more likely to engage in HIV-related risk behaviors than other MSM,” said Ernest Hopkins, chairman of the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition and director of legislative affairs at the San Franciso AIDS Foundation.

But they are associated with risk factors such as early sexual experience, having older sex partners, being molested as a child, being incarcerated, growing up in poverty, homelessness and suffering discrimination, saidMr. Hopkins.