Sept. 11, 2008 -- HIV is striking African-Americans with "alarming" ferocity, according to a new CDC report.
Just last month, the CDC reported that the overall U.S. HIV epidemic was much worse than we'd thought.
Now the CDC points to groups for whom the HIV epidemic is vastly worse:
- Young (aged 13-29) black men who have sex with men get HIV more often than any other age/racial group.
- African-American women are 15 times more likely to get HIV than are white women.
- African-American men are six times more likely to get HIV than are white men.
- Hispanic women are four times more likely to get HIV than are white non-Hispanic women.
- Hispanic men are more than twice as likely to get HIV than are white non-Hispanic men.
- Among Hispanics, men get 76% of new HIV infections.
- African-Americans get nearly half of all new HIV infections in the U.S.
- Men who have sex with men get more than half of all new HIV infections in the U.S.
- Among white gay/bisexual men, those aged 30-39 and 40-49 get the most new HIV infections.
"The number of new HIV infections among young black men who have sex with men is alarming," Kevin Fenton, MD, PhD, director of the CDC's division of HIV/AIDS, said at a news conference held to announce the findings.
No less alarming is the astonishingly heavy impact of HIV on African-American women, says Richard Wolitski, PhD, acting director of the CDC's division of HIV/AIDS prevention.
"A range of issues contributes to disproportionate HIV risk for African-Americans, such as poverty, stigma, lack of access to health care, and higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases," Wolitski said at the news conference. "Black women face additional challenges such as power imbalances in sexual relationships with men. This may affect their ability to protect themselves by measures such as using condoms."
Particularly galling was the finding of high rates of new HIV infections in older gay/bisexual men. Gay men were the first Americans to be struck by HIV and AIDS. Massive behavior change in this population slowed the AIDS epidemic in the years before effective treatment was available.
The new data, collected in 2006 in 22 states, shows that this trend ended a long time ago.
"To end the HIV epidemic in the U.S., we must reverse years of increases in HIV incidence among men who have sex with men," Fenton said. "We must ensure HIV infection does not become a right of passage for gay and bisexual men. We must reach each generation early in their lives. At same time, we must develop strategies to keep older age groups HIV-free for life."
Fenton said the CDC would soon launch a national campaign to increase HIV testing rates among gay and bisexual men. And he said that the CDC is working to expand existing HIV prevention programs, especially for African-American men who have sex with men.
Those programs are sorely needed. Fenton noted that 80% of gay men in a recent survey had not been reached in the last year by the kinds of intensive, ongoing programs needed for effective HIV prevention.
The new CDC report appears in the Sept. 12 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.