Back of the Line

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back-lineAlthough Black gay men have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS since the epidemic first appeared in the early 1980s, the country has yet to mount a meaningful response to this crisis. Representing a mere 1 in 500 people living in the U.S., Black gay men account for nearly 1 in 4 new HIV infections. And the problem is getting worse, with new infections among Black gay men rapidly rising.

HIV represents a lifelong threat for Black gay men. A young Black gay man has a roughly 1-in-4 chance of being infected by age 25. By the time he is 40 years old, the odds a Black gay men will be living with HIV is roughly 60%. One can scour the entire world and struggle to find a population more heavily affected by HIV/AIDS than Black gay in the U.S.

Black gay men’s higher risk of HIV does not stem from higher levels of risk behavior. Rather, their disproportionate risk of HIV can be traced to their poor access to health services, a high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, and early patterns of sexual behavior among young gay men.

No one has responded to this health crisis with the urgency it warrants. Federal agencies don’t even track HIV resources focused on Black gay men, and state and local governments badly under-prioritize prevention and treatment services for Black gay men. Neither Black America nor the LGBT community has made the fight against AIDS among Black gay men a priority. And only a handful of private foundations remain engaged in the AIDS fight.

There is hope, however. New evidence indicates that antiretroviral treatment reduces the odds of HIV transmission by 96%, leading preeminent scientific experts to advise that the tools now exist to end the AIDS epidemic – for all populations, and in all settings.

But absent major changes, Black gay men are unlikely to benefit from new biomedical tools to prevent HIV transmission and AIDS deaths. Due to the combined effects of poverty, unemployment, lack of health coverage, racism and homophobia, Black gay men face profound obstacles in obtaining basic health services.

This latest report by the Black AIDS Institute is dedicated to the belief that this state of affairs can – and must – change. It outlines an immediate action plan to end AIDS among Black gay men.

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