Despite progress in medicines and awareness around HIV, the disease continues to more severely impact gay and bisexual men who are Latino and Black.
HIV infection rates in gay and bisexual Latino men increased from 6,800 new cases in 2010 to 7,900 new cases reported in 2019. Meanwhile, the number of new cases decreased only slightly from 9,000 in 2010 to 8,900 in 2019 for gay and bisexual Black men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs report. Meanwhile gay and bisexual white men experienced a decrease in rates of new HIV cases from 7,500 in 2010 to 5,100 in 2019.
The report examines health inequities that exist in HIV prevention, diagnosis, and treatment among gay and bisexual men who accounted for 66% of new HIV infections in 2019.
“In 1986, the first report released showed disparities between Black and Latino gay and bisexual men with HIV, and the vital signs report today proves that is still in existence,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said during a media briefing.
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What challenges do Black and Latino men face?
Walensky said the report shows that despite overall progress, the HIV epidemic continued in Black and Latino men who are gay and bisexual. What factors into this? High levels of stigma and unequal treatment and resources in these communities.
“Racism is in the root of health disparities,” Walensky said.
About 20% of Latino men who are gay and bisexual are unaware of their HIV status, compared to 17% of Black men who are gay and bisexual and 10% of white men who are gay and bisexual, according to the report.
Only 27% of Black and African American, 31% of Latino, and 42% of white gay and bisexual men used medicine to prevent HIV, known as PrEP, in 2017, according to the report.
Meanwhile, 62% Black and 67% of Latino men with HIV were virally suppressed in 2019, compared with 74% white men. Viral suppression is defined by the CDC as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood, which keeps the immune system working and prevents illness.
All of these factors coupled with health disparities and decreased resources have added to the HIV infection rates in Black and Latino gay and bisexual mean.
The CDC Vital Signs report concluded that Latino and Black bisexual and gay men with HIV experienced the disease more severely.
What is the CDC pledging to do?
Demetre Daskalakis, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention, said the agency plans to implement programs to give HIV self-testing kits to those without access to in-person testing services.
Daskalakis said they plan to make PrEP more available, especially to Black and African American and Latino communities. The CDC will also adapt the Ryan White Program where comprehensive care and other support services are provided through local partner collaboration, community training, data and more.
The agency will also develop a “status-neutral approach” to help men receive HIV services regardless of status. Daskalakis said the CDC pledges to understand the causes of inequality as well as systemic racism, stigma, discrimination, homophobia and unequal access to prevention services.
“Our first step is recognizing the disparities are not inevitable and that we have a decades in the making opportunity to erase the HIV epidemic and disparities,” Daskalakis said.