ATLANTA--Even though there are fewer new HIV infections among blacks, a particular sliver of the community — young black gay and bisexual men — are being infected at an alarming rate.
According to a new report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Black gay and bisexual men of all ages account for 73 percent of new infections among black men, while the number of young black gay and bisexual men under the age of 30 increased by 50 percent in only four years.
Black gay and bisexual men under the age of 30 are the only race and risk group in the United States to experience a significant increase between 2006 and 2009. While data show that HIV infections increased by almost 50 percent among these young men in just four years, HIV surveillance data only tell only half the story.
Young black gay men often face a double hurdle in staying healthy and HIV-free: economic hardships that prevent many in black communities from seeing a doctor, and the stigma and homophobia that can damage the well-being of many gay men.
Additionally, young black gay men are more likely than men of other races to have sexual relationships with older men, which can increase their risk of being exposed to HIV simply because older gay men are more likely to be HIV positive.
Young blacks -- male or female, gay or straight -- also have higher rates of certain sexually transmitted diseases that can make it easier to transmit HIV.
Additionally, a recent study of 21 major cities found that the majority of young black gay and bisexual men who were HIV-infected were unaware of their HIV status. These high rates of unawareness, coupled with the fact that young gay men tend to underestimate their chances of getting infected, are contributing to the increasing numbers of HIV infections we are seeing today.
When considering all of this information, the challenge before us is clear: we cannot end the black AIDS epidemic without confronting HIV among black gay men, and the stigma and homophobia that allows HIV to flourish in our communities.