CDC: HIV Infection Rates Highest in Homosexual Population

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A new study released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the rate of HIV among homosexually active men is 44 times higher than that of heterosexual men.

The study found that sexually active homosexual and bisexual men continue to be the risk group most severely affected by HIV in the U.S. and is the only group where the rate of infection is on the rise.

The data analysis revealed that almost half (48%) of the estimated one million people living with HIV in the U.S. are homosexual/bisexual men and that these men account for more than half (53%) of all new cases each year.

Even though this group accounts for less than four percent of the U.S. population over the age of 13, the rate of infection in this group is 44 times that of other men.

“According to the latest estimates, white MSM [men who have sex with men] represent the greater number of new HIV infections than any other population, followed closely by black MSM – who are one of the most disproportionately affected subgroups in the U.S.,” the report states.

The primary ages at which these men become infected differs by race. Most new infections among black and Hispanic men occur in the 13-29 age group with infections among white men occurring in the 30-39 age group.

Even more alarming was the finding that a study of homosexually active men in five U.S. cities found extremely high levels of infection with many of those men not knowing they had the disease.

“Among all of those who were infected, about half were unaware of their HIV status,” the report states. “Results were particularly alarming for black MSM and young MSM, with more than two-thirds of infected black MSM, and nearly 80 percent of infected young MSM (aged 18-24) unaware that they were infected.”

Among young men, complacency about HIV is one of the main reasons why these men do not take steps to protect themselves and others from the disease. This is because many of these younger men did not experience the severity of the early AIDS epidemic that decimated the homosexual population as it spread throughout the world.

“While the heavy toll of HIV and syphilis among gay and bisexual men has been long recognized, this analysis shows just how stark the health disparities are between this and other populations,” said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

Fenton insisted that “solutions for young gay and bisexual men are especially critical, so that HIV does not inadvertently become a rite of passage for each new generation of gay men.”

The number one recommendation the CDC is making to men who wish to avoid infections is to abstain from sex. This is followed by a recommendation to have sex only in a mutually monogamous relationship, or to use a condom.

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