HIV incidence in young black gay men in Atlanta, Georgia in the US is running at 12.1% a year – one of the highest figures or HIV incidence ever recorded in a population in the resource-rich world – according to research presented at the 21st Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). Only a few studies in resource-poor settings of highly at-risk populations, such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs, have found higher annual rates of infection.
This level of incidence means that a young black gay man becoming sexually active at the age of 18 has a 60% chance of being HIV positive by the age of 30.
The study that uncovered these figures, by Atlanta’s Emory School of Public Health, established that lack of health insurance and solely having sexual partners from the black community were almost sufficient as factors, when combined, to explain why incidence in young black men who have sex with men (BMSM) is so much higher than in other MSM. Unemployment and incarceration were also factors that significantly contributed to high incidence.
On the other hand, sexual risk behaviour did not contribute because, as some other studies have found, young black gay men actually have lower rates of unprotected anal sex than white men. In addition, this survey did not find that age-mixing – tending to have sex with partners significantly younger or older than oneself – was a factor in high incidence, contrary to what some other studies have found.
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