CDC: 50% of Black Gay Men Will Contract HIV

New research reveals stark differences in risk
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 24, 2016 3:53 AM CST
CDC: 50% of Black Gay Men Will Contract HIV
People visit the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

About half of gay and bisexual black men will be diagnosed with the AIDS virus in their lifetime, according to new government estimates. Overall, for the average American, the odds of an HIV infection is 1 in 99 and has been declining. But the risk varies widely for different groups. For example, the projection is 1 in 2 for gay black men, but fewer than 1 in 2,500 for heterosexual white men. "The differences are stark," said Dr. Jonathan Mermin of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after the CDC released the estimates at a Boston medical conference on Tuesday.

The estimates were calculated from HIV diagnosis and death figures from 2009 through 2013. New HIV infections have been falling in the US, to about 40,000 annually. A disproportionately large share—about 10,000 cases—has been in gay and bisexual black men. That number has been holding steady, while infections in other groups have fallen. The lifetime risk of HIV also has been declining. Several years ago, the CDC put that estimate at less than 1 in 78 for all Americans. It fell about 20%, to 1 in 99, and dropped for both men and women. That suggests prevention efforts are paying off, Mermin says. Other findings include:

  • Based on geography, the chances of being diagnosed with HIV is highest in Washington, DC, and Southern states like Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Maryland.
  • The risk is lowest in North Dakota. One in 670 residents of that state will be diagnosed with HIV, compared to about 1 in 50 in Maryland and Georgia.
  • Gay and bisexual men have the highest risk, but there are racial differences within that group. For gay white men it's about 1 in 11—a significantly smaller proportion than the estimate for blacks and Hispanics.
  • Among heterosexuals, blacks are far more likely to be infected than other racial groups—for example, 1 in 49 black women compared to 1 in 1,083 white women.
(Researchers say the "Charlie Sheen effect" did a lot to raise HIV awareness.)

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