Half of black American gay men may get HIV – CDC

© Athit Perawongmetha
Nearly half of gay and bisexual black men in the US will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted.

Overall, gay and bisexual men in the US face the highest risk of being diagnosed with the HIV. Men who have sex with other men are 79 times more likely to test positive for the incurable virus than heterosexual men, the CDC study says. 

However, race and ethnicity also play critical roles – half of gay and bisexual African-American men and a quarter of gay and bisexual Hispanic men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes, whereas the chances for white gay and bisexual men are much lower, standing at 1 in 11.

For the general population, however, the picture is more optimistic: the potential risk of a US citizen contracting HIV is one in 99, while some 10 years ago it was 20 percent higher: 1 in 78.

Almost 40,000 new cases of HIV are registered in the US every year, and a staggering 10,000 of them involve gay and bisexual men.

So, why is the risk so much higher among the African-American gay community?

The study says a few socioeconomic factors contribute to the situation, such as having less access to good-quality health care, higher rates of unemployment, and lower HIV awareness.

The study used HIV statistics from 2009 and 2010 covering all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and compared them to those of a previous study that had examined only 33 states.

Researchers say it may still be possible to turn things around and beat back the looming threat.

These estimates are a sobering reminder that gay and bisexual men face an unacceptably high risk for HIV – and of the urgent need for action. If we work to ensure that every American has access to the prevention tools we know work, we can avoid the outcomes projected in this study,” Dr. Eugene McCray, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, has said.

His statement was echoed by his colleagues at the CDC, with Dr. Jonathan Mermin describing the situation as “alarming,” though he said the estimates “are not a foregone conclusion,” but a “call to action.”

Over the past decades, HIV has turned from a deadly health hazard into a “chronic threat.” The groups facing the highest risk have always been gay and bisexual men, as well as intravenous drug addicts.