Put a rainbow colored asterisk next to this news from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: The number of HIV infections in the U.S. stabilized at about 50,000 new ones per year during a four-year period ending in 2009.
Now for the asterisk: If you are gay and white, gay and black or gay and Hispanic, you make up the piece of the population that sees the most infections of any demographic group. It’s not really a list that you want to top. In Georgia, there’s a second rainbow asterisk: The state is a leader in AIDS cases while its HIV unit is plagued with massive turnover and questionable management.
“More than 30 years into the HIV epidemic, about 50,000 people in this country still become infected each year. Not only do men who have sex with men continue to account for most new infections, young gay and bisexual men are the only group in which infections are increasing, and this increase is particularly concerning among young African American MSM ,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden (top photo) says in a prepared statement.
“HIV infections can be prevented. By getting tested, reducing risky behaviors, and getting treatment, people can protect themselves and their loved ones,” he adds.
The new HIV estimates, which cover the years 2006 to 2009, were published Wednesday in the online scientific journal Plops One. The numbers are based on direct measurement of new HIV infections with a lab test that can distinguish recent from long-standing HIV infections.
According to the new estimates, there were 48,600 new HIV infections in the United States in 2006, 56,000 in 2007, 47,800 in 2008 and 48,100 in 2009. The multi-year incidence estimates allow for a reliable examination of trends over time. They reveal no statistically significant change in HIV incidence overall from 2006 to 2009, with an average of 50,000 for the four-year period. In 2009, the largest number of new infections was among white MSM (11,400), followed closely by black MSM (10,800). Hispanic MSM (6,000) and black women (5,400) were also heavily affected.
“We have plateaued at an unacceptably high level. Without intensified HIV prevention efforts, we are likely to face an era of rising infection rates and higher health care costs for a preventable condition that already affects more than one million people in this country,” he says in a prepared statement.
The research shows that gay men are the most impacted by new HIV infections. The CDC estimates that men who have sex with men make up 2 percent of the population, but 61 percent of new HIV infections in 2009. Young gay men, ages 13 to 19, represented 27 percent of new HIV infections. The CDC says these numbers are fueled by a variety of factors, including:
• Stigma of HIV and homosexuality, which can hinder seeking out prevention services
• Limited access to health care, HIV testing and treatment
• Increased likelihood of having older sexual partners who are more likely to be HIV-positive
“We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men and the continued impact of HIV among young gay and bisexual men of all races,” Jonathan Merman, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, says in a prepared statement.
“We cannot allow the health of a new generation of gay men to be lost to a preventable disease. It’s time to renew the focus on HIV among gay men and confront the homophobia and stigma that all too often accompany this disease,” he adds.
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