Jason Tseng

CDC says AIDS 50 Times Higher in Gays, Bi Men

Filed By Jason Tseng | September 01, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: CDC, heterosexual privilege, HIV/AIDS, risk levels for HIV

The CDC announced findings stating that Gay/Bi men and MSMs contract HIV/AIDS at a rate 50 times higher than the general populace. Allow me to repeat that statistic: Gay men get HIV/AIDS fifty times more often than straight folk. Previously, the CDC has not made comparisons like this in the past, but would rather use raw numbers of new infections to illustrate the spread of the disease.

CDC official Dr. Amy Lansky announced today at a plenary session of the National HIV Prevention Conference the CDC's finding that, in the United States, gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) have AIDS at a rate more than 50 times (that's right, FIFTY TIMES) greater than women and non-gay/bi men. This confirms in emphatic terms that of all the disparities and disproportionate impacts in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States, the greatest one is the extraordinarily disproportionate impact on gay and bisexual men -- of all races and ethnicities-- though the most disproportionate impact is on African American gay, bi and other MSM. As incidence estimates released by CDC last year revealed, MSM constitute more than half of all new cases of HIV and are the group in which the number of new cases each continues to slowly increase. What's new today is that the CDC has calculated *rates* of HIV/AIDS prevalence among MSM, not just raw numbers. Lansky says the CDC estimates that there were 692.2 new HIV cases in 2007 per 100,000 MSM. Having a rate as well as the raw numbers allows comparisons for the first time to other population groups at risk, such as women and heterosexual men.

This is sobering news for all us queer folk. After everything our community has been through, with the initial spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic during the 80s, and the gargantuan PR and safe sex education efforts these past twenty years have left us with this number. Gay/Bi men and MSMs still make up more than half of all new HIV infections. That's over 50% of new HIV infections coming from roughly 5% of the population.

Use a damn condom, people. Or, god forbid... have less sex.

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If transgender (and transsexual) women are categorized as men who have sex with men as revealed at the international conference on HIV/AIDS a year ago in Mexico, what does this say about the statistics you cite?

What does this say about the statistics about the incidence of HIV/AIDS among transgender (and transsexual) women that no one can cite?

And about what isn't being done for us?

"Use a damn condom, people. Or, god forbid... have less sex."

Seriously? The Bilerico Project is publishing commentary that includes conclusions as profound as this??

Gay men consistently use condoms at rates far, far higher than do straight people. And yet still we carry 50% of the burden of new infections. We use condoms more and we get infected more. So something else must be at play, no?

If this is the shallowness of our *own* community's insight into what factors actually put us at higher risk and what innovative interventions could lower that risk, I think we can expect to be in no better a position two decades from now.

Aside from the fact that a wildly high prevalence rate among queer communities is OBVIOUSLY going to translate into a significantly higher incidence rate among those same communities, it's time to explore what stands in the way of some of us using condoms when we want to or intended to.

What socio-economic barriers?... What civil rights barriers?... What about access to testing and what about access to testing among more marginalized queer people like trans folks, youth, people without health coverage, and queer people of color?... What about individual and collective self-esteem?... What about getting beat up in school?... What about the fact that, even in 2009, there is still no gov't-mandated comprehensive sexual education in schools that actually teaches kids HOW to have anal sex safely?...

A 2008 study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that at least 25% of U.S. girls aged 14-19 have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). A staggering 48% of black teen girls have an STI, while the prevalence rate among their white peers is 20%. (http://tinyurl.com/my3u2y)

Does anyone *not* believe that racism, poverty, and unequal access to health care and testing play a huge role in explaining the difference between STI rates of black and white teen girls?

Come on, Bilerico Project. We deserve a deeper and better analysis than, "Use a damn condom, people. Or, god forbid... have less sex."

Civil rights barriers to condoms? Can you give me an example of this? I am in my 30s and free condoms have been available since I was a teenager, so I'm not understanding what you mean by this.

I think too many people are looking for excuses in the wrong places for what is essentially a personal decision.

I believe the largest barrier to practicing safe sex is self-esteem, but that is something that must be developed from within

Monogamy is the best way to stop the spread of STD's. Does this mean we can let gays marry now?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 2, 2009 1:59 AM

Rootbeer, that is part of the secret no one wants to admit. They would prefer we die, or at least shut up. And while we die they would prefer we don't linger too long as a burden.

At AIDS shelter fund raising I have done in Chicago the North Shore would show up and we inner city Gays got to hob nob with the well off suburbanites. All of them spoke to the goodness of the "cause" of caring for all people. They left the fund raiser clutching their "goodie bag" of cosmetics, toiletries and coupons to restaurants worth twice what they donated, but themselves a donation by the business supporters.

We are only a night out for these people. It is our job to take care of ourselves.

Use a damn condom, people. Or, god forbid... have less sex.

You've got me on the first sentence, but you lose me on the second. Judging people on the amount of sex they have is ludicrous.

What if my sex is three times a day with my partner of several years so we don't use condoms anymore but one day he strays? He picks up something and brings it home and now I'm infected? Is it because we had sex three times a day? Of course not.

You can have as much sex as you want - as long as you protect yourself every time and know how to fuck responsibly.

I guess I really meant "Have sex with fewer people." I think that the gay community has become pro-sex to a fault. We're taught that "I fuck therefore I am"... any attempts to curb gay sex is seen as immediately homophobic. Look at Larry Kramer... he started the Gay Men's Health Crisis, but got kicked out of his own organization when he advocated for closing bathhouses.

When you have a community like ours which has institutionalized promiscuity (i.e. bathhouses, craigslist sex, manhunt, to name a few) I think it's a problem. By telling people it is the norm to have sex with as many partners as one possibly can... you're obviously going to increase the rate at which STIs are transmitted. I had a friend who was a nurse at a HIV/AIDS clinic in Montreal and he told me that the number of HIV/AIDS cases that they saw doubled after the Bathhouses opened in Montreal.

While correlation does not beget causation, it's still sobering nonetheless. If you're not comfortable talking to someone about their serostatus, you shouldn't be fucking them in the first place.

Bathhouses and the number of sexual partners do not transmit the HIV virus. HIV is transmitted by high risk sexual activity. Only by having sexual activity which is no risk or low risk, will the rate of HIV infection decrease. It goes without saying that safe sex must aways be practiced.

Until studies can be done examining other factors and then things can be done addressing these factors we are limited in what is acknowledged as the causative factors.
Yes, the decreased access to health care that we have as a community should be considered as should the tendency toward lower self esteem because of the way our LGBT youth are treated as should the fact that still most educational programs do not teach these kids how to avoid this in a reasonable way or even address our existence. Racism should also be considered to influence as it aligns with these other factors both external and internal racism, but most educational programs are acting like we are in a post racism society.
But these factors mostly influence the choices that people make and it is that choice that is killing. So we have to work on the social factors which influence these choices. We have to educate and support our youth and we have to build a supportive community for ourselves while we continue to work toward full integration into society (not assimilation but integration).

This study points out the extreme important of
individuals to communicate with their sex partner(s). The mass majority of activities one
does sexual will not transmit HIV. Individuals
need to talk with their sex partner(s) and practice
safe sex. In reality, this is not about the number of partners one has but what one does sexual. In 2009, there is really no excuse of the high rate of HIV infection in Gay or bi men. We are all sexual
beings and we should practice safe sex.