Active Homosexual Men at Greater Risk for HIV
Special Report - June 16, 2009
Young men who engage in homosexual sex are “disproportionately” affected by HIV/AIDS, according to a new fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s May 2009 fact sheet, “HIV/AIDS and Young Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM),” notes that between 2003 and 2006, over half (54 percent) of all cases of HIV/AIDS among young people ages 13 to 24 were from “male-to-male sexual contact,” while 34 percent were from heterosexual contact. According to the CDC, HIV/AIDS “has increased most among young MSM, especially young men of color.” The fact sheet points out that MSM made up the largest HIV transmission category in the United States from 2001-2006, “and is the only one associated with an increasing number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses.” The most dramatic increase in HIV/AIDS occurred among young MSM ages 13 to 24.
The CDC points to a number of possible factors for the high rates of HIV/AIDS among young MSM, including the following:
- The high percentage of young MSM who do not know they are infected. One study found that 77 percent of young urban MSM (ages 15-29) who were HIV-positive believed they were not infected.
- The “unintended consequences” of successful HIV/AIDS treatments. According to the CDC, “younger MSM, who did not witness the toll of AIDS in the early years of the epidemic, might view HIV infection as less dangerous and more treatable, leading them to become complacent about risks.”
- The elevated use of alcohol and party drugs, such as methamphetamine (meth), among some young MSM. A 2006 study by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) found that 36 percent of MSM attending circuit parties reported using Meth, as well as 28 percent of MSM ages 15-22 in major urban areas.
- The high rates of STDs among MSM in general. The CDC notes that having an STD increases the risk of HIV infection between two to five fold. Compared to heterosexual men, MSM are at an increased risk of contracting a number of dangerous STDs, including HIV/AIDS. According to the GLMA, these STDs include: “urethritis, proctitis, pharyngitis, prostatitis, hepatitis A and B, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, genital warts and HIV infection.”
For more information on the physical health risks of homosexuality, read our July/August 2007 Spotlight article here.
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