Health Conditions Hub HIV/AIDS

Report Explores HIV Rates Among Black Gay Men

African-American gay men account for 53 percent of all new black HIV infections

Did you know that while African-American gay and bisexual men account for a mere .2 percent of the total U.S. population, they account for 25 percent of all new HIV infections each year?

These numbers sparked a report from the Foundation on AIDS Research (amFAR).

Their brief, “HIV and the Black Community: Do Black(GAY)Lives Matter?” examines African-American men who have sex with men by adding context to past CDC data in order for us to really see how grossly impacted they are when it comes to this epidemic. Looking at CDC surveillance data and 2010 U.S. Census data, the report found:

  • There are 39 million African Americans in the U.S. with 20,920 new HIV infections among blacks each year.
  • Among the 20 million black women in the U.S., 6,100 each year are infected with HIV.
  • Among the 18 million heterosexual men, 3,800 are infected with HIV.
  • Among the 563,000 gay black men, more than 11,000 are infected with HIV each year. This means that they represent 1.4 percent of the black population, but 53 percent of all new infections among blacks.

“Most of our response is to contextualize HIV rates and numbers in the black community, which looking at raw numbers doesn’t really do,” Gregorio Millet, amFAR’s vice president and director of public policy, said.

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“With this context we can see just how disproportionately impacted certain populations are in the black community and what we see is that in some areas in the U.S., 30 percent of black gay men are positive, which is comparable to sub-Saharan Africa.”

So what’s going on?

While some may believe these numbers exist because gay black men have riskier sex, Millet dispels that myth quickly with science. “Numerous data tell us that black gay men actually report fewer risk factors than white gay men, including lower rates of IV drug use and riskier sex. So we have to look to other factors to explain these numbers.”

Some factors for higher rates of HIV among gay men include: higher transmission risk through anal sex; disproportionate rates of poverty and incarceration; lack of access to health care and a higher chance of being exposed to HIV in our community. Millet and the report itself both point out that the lack of response and the devaluation of black gay lives have helped fuel this epidemic as well.

“It’s been 30-plus years into this epidemic and we have seen a lot of social neglect. No real response to the epidemic among gay black men, no real federal effort or funding to truly address the needs of this particular community,” Millet stressed. “And when efforts are made, too many times they include the wrong messages and the wrong interventions that only make this situation worse.”

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If anything, Millet hopes that this brief will spark the CDC and policymakers to allocate more funding to go toward gay black men so that reductions in transmission can impact their community in the same ways that we have seen reduced rates among mother-to-child cases and black women over the years.

He also wants for black community leaders, churches and parents to begin acknowledging the importance of supporting LGBT youth and adults. “We know that children who are cast away from their homes and communities are at a higher risk for HIV. Thankfully things are beginning to change. We see Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas standing in support of their gay sons, and we are seeing more black gay athletes coming out, so the conversations are starting to be had, but we have more work to do.”

For more about amFAR, HIV and men who have sex with men, go to BET.

Photo: Depositphotos

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