By Dr. Gail Barouh
June is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Pride Month. It pays homage to the 1969 Greenwich Village riots at the Stonewall Inn, where gay rights proponents fought against armed New York City police over discrimination. The anniversary is celebrated with parades, events, parties and other happy events. But in the midst of this celebration, we must keep in mind that it has also been over 30 years since the beginning of the HIV/Aids epidemic. Many great advances have been made against the disease but men who have sex with men (MSM) (which includes men who identify as gay, straight or bisexual) need to continue to be mindful of these sobering facts from the CDC:
• In 2009, MSM accounted for 61% of new HIV infections in the US and 79% of infections among all newly infected men. Compared with other groups, MSM accounted for the largest numbers of new HIV infections in 2009.
• Among all MSM, black/African American MSM accounted for 10,800 (37%) new HIV infections in 2009. Whereas new HIV infections were relatively stable among MSM overall from 2006–2009, they increased 34% among young MSM—an increase largely due to a 48% increase among young black/ African American MSM aged 13–29.
• At the end of 2009, of the estimated 784,701 persons living with an HIV diagnosis, 396,810, or 51%, were MSM. About 48%of MSM living with an HIV diagnosis were white, 30% were black/African American, and 19% were Hispanic/Latino.
In a study of MSM in 21 major US cities including New York, the CDC found that one out of every 5 (19%) MSM were HIV positive and almost half of those infected did not know it. (2008)
Men who have sex with men of all ages and races have been more severely impacted by HIV/AIDS than any other group in the U.S. Use of drugs, such as Crystal, Special K, E pills or alcohol has been linked to high risk sexual decisions such as unprotected anal sex (barebacking) with casual and multiple sex partners.
So go out, have fun and party, but remember, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases have not gone away and it is just as important as ever to wear a condom and be protected. Know your HIV status, get tested -it’s FREE! Call LIAAC at: 1.866.236.3448