CDC: half of gay, bisexual men with HIV don’t receive treatment

The CDC announced today that half of gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV received care and treatment in 2010, and only 42 percent of them reached viral suppression—meaning when the virus is at a level that both keeps them healthy and reduces the risk of transmitting it to others. The organization also found that young gay and bisexual African-American men were the least likely group to receive care and treatment.

This new information was published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in advance of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day this Saturday, Sept. 27.

“It’s unacceptable that treatment, one of our most powerful tools for protecting people’s health and preventing new HIV infections, is reaching only a fraction of gay men who need it,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention, in a press release. “A top prevention priority at CDC is making sure every gay man with HIV knows his status and receives ongoing medical care – otherwise, we will never tackle the HIV epidemic in the country.”

The CDC said it had done the following to address the disparities:

  • Launched 11-city MSM Testing Initiative to identify best practices for delivering HIV testing to gay and bisexual men
  • Provided $55 million to community-based organizations to test an additional 90,000 young gay, bisexual, and transgender youth of color
  • Launched the Care and Prevention in the United States project – a three-year $44.2 million pilot program that is helping eight state health departments increase the number of people with HIV who receive ongoing medical care and treatment
  • Released national communications campaigns, including several designed to increase testing among gay and bisexual men of color and, most recently, Start Talking. Stop HIV., which encourages all gay and bisexual men to talk openly with their sexual partners about HIV risk and how to identify the prevention strategies that are right for them

HIV/AIDS activists criticized the CDC for its strategies and sense of urgency in a June press conference. The criticism was in reaction to the rising number of new HIV infections in gay men and transgender women. Studies show the number of new infections in those two groups has spiked nationally while the number of new infections have held steady in other groups. And one study showed that 12 percent of Atlanta’s young gay black men are contracting HIV every year.