"Second-wave" epidemic? HIV on rise in young gay men
The number of young homosexual men being newly diagnosed with HIV infection is rising by 12 percent a year, with the steepest upward trend in young black men, according to a new report.
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The number of young homosexual men being newly diagnosed with HIV infection is rising by 12 percent a year, with the steepest upward trend in young black men, according to a new report.
The double-digit increase in young gay men is roughly 10 times higher than in the homosexual community overall, where the number of new infections is going up about 1.5 percent a year.
The report, released Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), appears to confirm impressions that a "second-wave" AIDS epidemic is under way in gay America.
"These men represent a new generation that has not been personally affected by AIDS in the same way that their older peers were," said Richard Wolitski, acting director of HIV/AIDS prevention at CDC.
The new data cover 33 states. Whether it reflects the entire country is unknown, although the states include New York, Florida, New Jersey and Texas, all of which have large numbers of HIV-infected people.
The study found that homosexual men were the only "risk group" in which the number of new infections rose annually from 2001-06. In contrast, injecting drug-users, homosexual men who injected drugs, and heterosexuals each showed declines in new infections over that period.
In the 13-to-24-year-old group, the average annual increase was 12 percent, compared to a 1 percent decline in 25-to-44-year-olds, and a 3 percent rise in gay men 45 and older.
In the youngest age bracket, the yearly rise averaged 8 percent among Hispanics, 9 percent among whites, and 15 percent among blacks.
Previous studies have found that gay black men on average have fewer sex partners, are less likely to use drugs, and are no more likely to have unprotected intercourse than gay white men. Consequently, their higher rate of infection doesn't appear to arise from riskier behavior.
Instead, it reflects the higher prevalence of HIV — as well as syphilis and gonorrhea — in the black population.
Ron Simmons, president of Us Helping Us, an AIDS service organization for gay black men, said the revolution in antiretroviral therapy in the last decade appears to have lessened the fear of HIV infection.
"I can remember going to a funeral every four or five days. Now, if you talk to some of these young men, they say, 'If I do get infected, I will simply take the blue pill or the pink pill, like my friend,' " he said.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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