HIV is on the decline – if you’re gay and white

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A 10-year look at HIV diagnoses in the U.S. shows that HIV has seen dramatic declines, even among some gay men. Yet for gay men, the success of beating back the disease varies greatly based on race and ethnicity. 

The new trends – as encouraging for gay white men as they are troubling for gay black and Latin men – were part of a look at HIV diagnoses from 2005 to 2014. The stats were released by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention during its National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta earlier this month.

Overall, the trends are encouraging and show a nearly 20 percent drop in HIV diagnoses. But the progress is uneven, the CDC notes.

For gay and bisexual men, trends over the decade have varied by race and ethnicity. Among white gay and bisexual men, diagnoses dropped steadily, decreasing 18 percent. Diagnoses among Latino gay and bisexual men continued to rise and were up 24 percent. Diagnoses among black gay and bisexual men also increased (22 percent) between 2005 and 2014, but that increase has leveled off since 2010.

A similar trend was seen among young black gay and bisexual men ages 13-24, who experienced a steep 87 percent increase in diagnoses between 2005 and 2014. Between 2010 and 2014, however, the trend has leveled off (with a 2 percent decline).

The disparities among races must be addressed, according to Jonathan Mermin (photo), director of the CDC's National Center of HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD & Prevention.

“Although we are encouraged by the recent slowing of the epidemic among black gay and bisexual men – especially young men – they continue to face a disproportionately high HIV burden and we must address it,” Mermin said in a prepared statement. 

“Much more must be done to reduce new infections and to reverse the increases among Latino men. There is hope that the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and other efforts are beginning to pay off, but we can’t rest until we see equal gains for all races and risk groups,” Mermin added.

The CDC's new analysis looked at HIV diagnoses over two time periods, 2005-1014 and 2010-2014. Other findings from the trends include:

  • From 2005-2014, the annual number of HIV diagnoses in the U.S. declined 19 percent (from 48,795 to 39,718 per year) – driven by substantial declines among heterosexuals (down 35 percent) and people who inject drugs (down 63 percent).
  • HIV diagnoses among black women were cut nearly in half, from 8,020 to 4,623 over the 2005-2014 period (42 percent decline), with continuing declines in recent years (25 percent since 2010).
  • Diagnoses among gay and bisexual men overall increased about 6 percent over the decade (from 25,155 to 26,612), but stabilized in more recent years (a less than 1 percent increase from 26,386 to 26,612).
  • Among white gay and bisexual men, diagnoses dropped steadily – both over the decade (decreasing 18 percent from 9,966 to 8,207) and in more recent years (decreasing 6 percent from 8,766 to 8,207).
  • Over the decade, diagnoses among black gay and bisexual men increased by 22 percent (from 8,235 to 10,080) but stabilized in more recent years (a less than 1 percent increase, from 10,013 to 10,080).
  • Further, while black gay and bisexual men ages 13-24 experienced a steep increase (87 percent from 2,094 to 3,923) in diagnoses over the decade, diagnoses among young black gay and bisexual men actually declined by 2 percent (from 3,994 to 3,923) in the most recent years.
  • Finally, diagnoses continued to increase among Latino gay and bisexual men – both over the decade (by 24 percent from 5,492 to 6,829) and in more recent years (by 13 percent from 6,060 to 6,829).

The CDC said that since HIV testing remained stable or increased in recent years, declines in HIV diagnoses mean a drop in new HIV infections and that upticks in diagnoses – like those seen in Latino gay and bisexual men – likely indicate an increase in HIV infections.

South lags in HIV treatment, testing


The new trends come as the CDC also pointed to data that showed death rates among people living with HIV are up to three times higher in the South and that Southern states also lagged behind in people knowing their HIV status.

“It is unacceptable that people with HIV living in many Southern states are more likely to die than those living in other parts of the country,” Mermin said. “Some states are making great strides toward getting people with HIV diagnosed and into care, but every state must do this if we are to reach our national goals for prevention and care.”

The national death rate in 2012 was 19.2 deaths per 1,000 people with diagnosed HIV, according to the CDC. But the rates among states varied – from a low of 7.9 deaths in Vermont to a high of 30.8 in Louisiana. Georgia had a rate of 16.9, while Texas had 20.2 deaths per 1,000 people with diagnosed HIV.

Across the U.S., 87 percent of Americans knew their HIV status, from a low of 77 percent in Louisiana to a high of 93 percent in New York and Hawaii, according to the CDC. Georgia scored the fourth-lowest rate of awareness at 81 percent, while Texas also ranked near the bottom at 83 percent.

The CDC said it's working to expand HIV testing, improve care and treatment for people with HIV and boost awareness of prevention tools, including PrEP and condoms, to decrease risky sexual behaviors.

During the HIV conference earlier this month, the CDC unveiled Doing It – a new HIV testing campaign that includes three Atlantans among a diverse array of participants. Also during the conference, activists blasted HIV criminalization laws in nearly three-dozen states, including Georgia, as failures.


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