Learn to Battle HIV

HIV transmission high among black gay and bisexual men

(RxWiki News) A key to slowing down the spread of HIV is to track the rate of transmission among various subgroups of sexually active individuals. Recent news about one group is sobering.

A recent study released by the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) found that HIV infections among black gay and bisexual men are startlingly high.

"Use a condom to prevent HIV transmission."

The study, called HPTN 061, was led in part by Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, director of the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiological Research at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

Dr. El-Sadr and her colleagues studied 1,553 men who have sex with men from 2009 to 2011 in six U.S. cities: Atlanta, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

At the start of the study, of the men who did not know their HIV status or who believed they were HIV-negative and agreed to be tested, 12 percent were found to be HIV-positive. A total of 97 percent of the participants agreed to be tested during the course of the study.

The study results revealed that black men who have sex with men are newly infected with HIV at a rate of 2.8 percent a year, which is almost 50 percent greater than the transmission rate among white gay and bisexual men.

This rate is doubled when the researchers looked at the data for black gay and bisexual men under 30, who are acquiring HIV at a rate of 5.9 percent a year.

To put these numbers in perspective, these percentage rates among young black men who have sex with men are on par with the rates of infection seen in the sub-Saharan African countries with the worst rates of HIV.

"We have known that black men who have sex with men are affected by HIV at disproportionately higher rates when compared to other men who have sex with men in the U.S., but the HPTN 061 HIV incidence rates were extremely high," said Darrell Wheeler, PhD, MPH, the co-chair of the study and a professor at the School of Social Work at Loyola University.

"They make it very clear that we must urgently find and implement ways to stem the spread of HIV among black gay men in this country, and critically among young black gay men," he said.

Other preliminary findings of the study include a link between poverty and high rates of sexually transmitted infections in young black gay and bisexual men.

The study was presented July 23 at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. The HPTN 061 study is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Review Date: 
July 26, 2012