HIV is on the decline. Unless you’re gay.

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The latest CDC report on HIV diagnoses over a decade includes a lot to celebrate in the fight against AIDS. New diagnoses are down drastically across almost every demographic category. Except in gay men, who are actually seeing increases across most age groups.

The new report looks at the 493,372 new diagnoses of HIV in the U.S. between 2002 and 2011.

The annual rate of HIV diagnoses declined by a third: from 24 per 100,000 people in the general American population in 2002 to 16 diagnoses per 100,000 in 2011. The diagnosis rate for women declined by nearly half over the same period.

And the actual number of new HIV cases declined as well, from over 56,000 in 2002 to just over 43,000 in 2011.

That’s where the rosy part of the picture ends and the grim reality begins. Prevention messages have lost their potency, or some say, never had the ability to reach gay men in any age group. Young, middle aged and older gay men all saw increases in HIV among their contemporaries during the study period.

The worst news comes for gay and bi males aged 13-24. Their HIV diagnoses went up 132 percent, from nearly 3,000 in 2002 to nearly 7,000 in 2011, CDC researchers write in their study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Improved testing methods should lead to an increase in diagnoses, but the study finds young people are not getting regular tests at all. 

The CDC found rates of HIV-positive diagnoses up 5 percent among gay men 45-54 and up 18 percent among gay men aged 55 and older. Among gay men 35-44, there was a 45 percent decline in HIV diagnoses.

For older men, they may be fatigued with methods to avoid infection after decades as well as psychological fallout from the epidemic itself. New communications strategies present different obstacles for them than those for the younger men. The big gay infighting over messaging and that little blue pill can’t be helping, no matter what Atlanta or Houston neighborhood you live in or other STD you’re carrying.

UPDATE | This post was revised to clarify that the study refers to HIV diagnoses and not infections. As the CDC pointed out to us, “This is an important distinction because the study looks at data for when a person was diagnosed with HIV – it does not tell us when they were infected.” The story was also changed to show that among gay men ages 35-44, HIV diagnoses decreased some 45 percent.


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