Half of these gay men will get HIV in their lifetime

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Gay black and Latin men are at strikingly higher risk to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime than white men who have sex with men, part of a sobering reality of how the virus impacts gay men based on their race.

Among men who have sex with men, 1 in 2 black men and 1 in 4 Latino men will be diagnosed with HIV during their life – compared to 1 in 11 for white men who have sex with men, according to a new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Overall, 1 in 6 men who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV in the lifetime.

The federal health agency released the research on Tuesday during the Conference on Retroviruses & Opportunistic Infections in Boston.

Jonathan Mermin (photo), director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD & Tuberculosis Prevention, called the estimates “alarming.”

“As alarming as these lifetime risk estimates are, they are not a foregone conclusion. They are a call to action,” Mermin said in a prepared statement. “The prevention and care strategies we have at our disposal today provide a promising outlook for future reductions of HIV infections and disparities in the U.S., but hundreds of thousands of people will be diagnosed in their lifetime if we don’t scale up efforts now.”

The CDC used diagnoses and death rates from 2009-2013 to project the lifetime risk of HIV diagnosis in the U.S. by sex, race and ethnicity, state and HIV risk group. The conclusions come with the assumption that current HIV rates remain constant, which the CDC hopes will drop through more effective prevention efforts and care. 

The analysis also found that people across the South are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV during their life than in other regions of the country. Georgia – with a risk of 1 in 51 people getting diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime – is the third-highest in the U.S., behind Washington, D.C. (1 in 13) and Maryland (1 in 49). Texas ranks seventh with a 1 in 81 risk.

“These estimates are a sobering reminder that gay and bisexual men face an unacceptably high risk for HIV – and of the urgent need for action,” Eugene McCray, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention said in a prepared statement. “If we work to ensure that every American has access to the prevention tools we know work, we can avoid the outcomes projected in this study.”

The new research is the latest in sobering news for non-white men who have sex with men. Earlier this month, the CDC said that black gays with HIV are less likely than whites and Hispanics to receive consistent care. In December, the federal health agency reported that HIV is on the decline – if you're gay and white. 

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