Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In a story that received little or no attention by the politically correct mainstream media, a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that an average of 50,000 people a year become infected with HIV, with the majority of these new cases occurring in homosexual and bisexual men.
Medscape Medical News is reporting that the CDC’s latest estimate from its national HIV incidence surveillance report has found that even though men who have sex with men (MSM) make up less than two percent of the population, 61 percent of annual HIV infections occur in this demographic group.
CDC director Thomas Frieden, MD said during a press conference last week that while they are glad the number of HIV infections isn’t increasing, it’s not improving either.
“The number of HIV infections remains far too high,” he said. “More needs to be done to prevent HIV. Already an estimated 1.2 million people in this country are infected. Of those, about one in five don’t know they’re infected. If you don’t know you’re positive, you can’t get treated.”
Tragically, young men (ages 13 to 29) were most affected, representing more than one in four (27%) of all new HIV infections nationally in 2009, which raises serious concerns about the way homosexuality is presented in school curriculums, usually in the form of anti-bullying presentations prepared by pro-homosexuality groups that often lack critical information about the health risks involved.
Young black MSM are particularly hard-hit by the incurable disease, with the number of new HIV infections surging from 4400 to 6500 infections between 2006 and 2009.
“CDC is very concerned about this increase,” said lead author of the report Joseph Prejean, PhD, from the HIV Incidence and Case Surveillance Branch, CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. “While we don’t have all the answers about what might be driving this trend, we do know that individual risk behaviors alone do not account for it.”
Black men in general are disproportionately affected by the epidemic. Although they make up just 14 percent of the total US population, they accounted for 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2009, according to the new estimates. The HIV infection rate among blacks in 2009 was nearly eight times as high as that of whites.
Even though previous research has found that black MSM have fewer sex partners and are less likely to use illegal drugs associated with HIV risk, the CDC believes these numbers could be due to higher rates of syphilis among this demographic which can increase the risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV. They’re also more likely than other groups of MSM to have an undiagnosed infection. Other factors could be that these men have more limited access to health care, and because they tend to have older sexual partners who are more likely to be infected with HIV.
Latinos are another hard-hit group. Representing only 16 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 20 percent of new HIV infections in 2009. Their infection rate was nearly three times that of whites.
When asked what physicians can do to help drive the HIV infection rate down, Dr. Prejean said they could ensure that HIV testing is routine. “When testing is done as a routine, rates of testing go way up,” he said.
He also advised physicians to help patients gain access to care once they’ve tested positive because up to a third of all newly infected people do not seek care promptly.
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