HIV infection rates remain high among black gay men in Boston and 5 other cities
WASHINGTON, DC -- HIV infection rates remain high among black gay men in the United States, and a lack of testing for the virus in this population may be one reason, according to a report presented Monday at the 2012 International AIDS Conference.
Among 1,553 black gay men studied -- including 237 from the Boston area -- participants acquired HIV at a rate of 2.8 percent per year, one-and-a-half times the rate among white gay men. Young black gay men under 30 became infected at a rate of 5.9 percent, triple the rate among white gay men.
The study was conducted between 2009 and 2011 by researchers at the Fenway Institute in Boston and teams in Atlanta, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City.
“The rates of infection that we’ve documented in this study are higher than the rates of many countries in Africa,” Dr. Kenneth Mayer, medical director of the Fenway Institute and a leader of the study, said in an interview Sunday.
The study reinforces earlier data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that in 2009, black people accounted for 44 percent of new HIV infections in the United States, despite comprising only 12 percent of the general population.
A large majority of the study population -- 88.8 percent -- believed they were uninfected or did not know their HIV status. Researchers discovered that 12 percent of these men already carried the virus at the beginning of the study, including three men who showed signs of advanced HIV.
Considering that less than 1 percent of the general US population is estimated to be HIV-positive, lack of HIV testing may be one critical factor contributing to health risks for black gay men, the study suggests.
“People are much more likely to practice safer sex if they know that they’re infected,” said Mayer. “So if you have a lot of people who are assuming they’re not infected or unwilling to deal with it, these are people who are much more likely to transmit HIV to their partners.”
The researchers found higher HIV infection rates among black gay men who were poor, unemployed, or had other sexually transmitted infections.
The team is continuing to analyze the data to understand the social and economic barriers that may discourage black gay men from getting tested and treated for HIV.
“There’s not a simple narrative that explains why these differences exist,” said Mayer.Helen Shen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @HelenShenWrites.
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