(RxWiki News) When AIDS first captured headlines in the 1980s, many thought that it could only be spread among gay men. While that theory has long been debunked, gay men are still at high risk for HIV.
September 27, 2012 marks the fifth annual observance of National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
Men who have sex with men account for half of new infections each year, and make up half of the population living in America with HIV.
The nationally designated day is intended to honor gay men's leadership in the fight against HIV, in addition to raising awareness about how men can protect themselves and others from HIV infection.
"Worried? Get tested at least once a year."
“We must not allow another generation to be devastated by this disease,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement.
“Together we can, and must, revitalize the passion and dedication that helped turn back the HIV epidemic among gay men during its darkest days.”
Since the epidemic began in the late 1970s and gained public attention in the 1980s, approximately 350,000 gay and bisexual men have died from the disease. An estimated 8,000 more die each year.
The CDC keeps close surveillance on the population affected by HIV/AIDS. Out of 50,000 new infections each year, sixty one percent are men who have sex with men.
White men who have sex with men are the most heavily impacted. Around 11,400 of them were infected in 2009, followed by black men who have sex with men (10,800) and followed by Hispanic men who have sex with men (6,000).
Put simply, the number of gay men with HIV outnumbers all other groups – no matter their race or method of infection, whether it's heterosexual sex or injection drug use.
The comparatively large numbers of gay and bisexual men with HIV means that anyone in that community has a high risk of being exposed to the virus during a sexual encounter. Stigma around HIV still exists, and some men feel uncomfortable about asking partners about their status, or to use protection during sex.
But what if a partner hasn't gotten tested, and doesn't know his status?
He could unknowingly be spreading HIV.
Right now, getting tested is a big focus in the fight against HIV. “One of the most important things every gay and bisexual man can do to stop the spread of HIV is to get tested for the disease at least once a year,” said Dr. Fenton in his statement.
“If you test negative, you’ll have peace of mind and can redouble your efforts to stay safe. And if you test positive, you can get the medical care and support that you need to keep healthy and protect others from infection.”
He concluded, “It’s a simple, quick way to reduce the toll of HIV, and can ultimately help us to turn the tide in the fight against HIV and AIDS in America.”