Another reminder of the seriousness of this disease

Posted: April 17, 2008 in Our Health, The Brothas

An Epidemic Unabated

By: DUNCAN OSBORNE

gaycitynews.com

For Black Gays 24 and Under, 60 Percent Rise in Four Years

Leaning back in a chair, his arms crossed above his head, Justin D. Walker spoke easily about his life. The 24-year-old paused to sip some water and occasionally stood to look at a computer screen displaying slides from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Using data from 33 states, one slide showed that new HIV or AIDS diagnoses among African-American gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 went from just under 1,000 cases in 2001 to more than 1,600 in 2005. Walker is one of those statistics. He learned he was positive at 20.

“I know that my future is altered,” he said toward the end of a 90-minute interview. “One of the things that I’ve always wanted to do was have a family. I know that is not impossible, but it will be hard to do.”

New HIV or AIDS diagnoses among white or Latino men who have sex with men in that age group also increased over that time, but the cases among whites hit roughly 600 in 2005 and there were about 500 cases among Latinos in that year.

During that same period, new diagnoses among gay and bisexual men aged 35 to 44 went from over 6,000 to roughly 6,500, cases among 25- to 34-year-olds went from 5,000 to 5,500, and cases among 45- to 54-year-olds went from roughly 2,500 to more than 3,000.

The 13- to 24-year-olds account for just four percent of all male AIDS cases, according to one CDC estimate, but that anyone in that age group is getting infected is shocking.

“It’s a very serious problem when the very young are becoming infected and it’s increasingly so,” said Dr. M. Monica Sweeney, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control in the New York City health department.

City data show that 3,596 13- to 24-year-olds first received an HIV diagnosis from 2001 to 2006. Sixty-six percent, or 2,388 cases, of those diagnoses were in men and, among the men, 68 percent, or 1,633 cases, were gay or bisexual men. Fifty-two percent of all the young men were African-American and 34 percent were Latino.

“These are really horrible statistics,” said Sean R. Cahill, managing director of public policy, research, and community health at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), referring to the city and CDC data. “I think that we’re in the middle of a second AIDS crisis among gay and bi men, especially among black and Latino men.”

Walker said he was infected during a May 2004 sexual encounter with a friend who did not disclose that he was HIV-positive and convinced him to have unsafe sex.

“That was my very first time being exposed to unsafe sex and my first male encounter,” he said. He was diagnosed in August and received an AIDS diagnosis in November of that year. It typically takes eight to ten years to go from becoming HIV-positive to developing AIDS.

Walker said he had sex with women previously and had been sexually assaulted by a man when he was 15, but all of those encounters were with condoms. He had four negative HIV tests, his first was at 17, prior to the positive test.

Walker believes “that all of my friends have the ability to get someone to use a condom,” but that “people that age are not really focused on using a condom.” (more…)

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