Despite decades of prevention efforts, HIV continues to increase among young gay men in urban areas, and most of these men are unaware they are infected, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Researchers looked at survey data spanning 1994 to 2008 on gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men ages 18 to 29 year old living in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and San Francisco, recruited from bars and nightclubs. The study focused on HIV prevalence as well as HIV testing.
They found that among those ages 23 to 29 years old, there was a trend towards increasing HIV prevalence from 1994 to 2008, with an overall prevalence of 16 percent.
“The fact that new infections increased somewhat in the 23- to 29-year-old age group indicates that this is a population that we need to be extremely concerned about and that we really need to be trying to reach them early with prevention so that we can establish healthy behaviors early on,” said Dr. Alexa Oster, lead author of the study and medical epidemiologist at the CDC.
Among gay men age 18 to 22, the overall HIV prevalence was 11 percent, and this number remained steady over the 14-year time span of the study.
Why is there a lack of progress in stemming the epidemic among young gay men? It turns out there are many factors that lead to higher rates of HIV disease in the gay community at large.
As Dr. Chris Beyrer, director of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, explains, “there are structural, social and biological features that enormously favor transmission over prevention among men who have sex with men.”