Personal Health

Half of Black Gay Men in the U.S. Will Contract HIV, Major New Study Says

The study is the first of its kind to highlight the demographic disparity of those affected by HIV.

Photo Credit: Gam1983/Shutterstock

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control reveals that, of the total gay and bisexual population living in the United States, half of the black men and a quarter of the Hispanic community will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes. The study is the first of its kind to highlight the demographic disparity of those affected by HIV.

These projections were drawn from CDC data on HIV diagnoses and death rates collected from 2009 to 2013. The findings operate under the assumption that rates of new diagnoses will remain constant. The study shows that, overall, one in 99 Americans will be diagnosed with HIV (improving on an early 2004/5 study, reporting the risk at 1 in 78).

In terms of the gender breakdown, the study revealed one in 64 men and one in 227 women will become HIV-positive in their lives. From this number, white people are recorded as having a one percent chance of contracting HIV, while the risks are far greater for blacks and Hispanics.

Regardless of their sexual preference, one in 20 black men and one in 48 black women will be diagnosed with HIV. Hispanic men and women only fare slightly better with one in 48 and one in 227, respectively.

“These estimates are a sobering reminder that gay and bisexual men face an unacceptably high risk for HIV—and of the urgent need for action,” said Eugene McCray, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in an interview with the Daily Beast. “If we work to ensure that every American has access to the prevention tools we know work, we can avoid the outcomes projected in this study.”

The CDC’s prevention approach to combatting HIV includes testing, encouraged condom usage and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) — a daily medication that reduces risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent. Despite these strategies, however, poverty is still one of the biggest hurdles to combatting HIV.

Among the CDC study’s results, the state with the highest HIV risk was Washington, D.C. with a shocking one in 13 result, while Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana, and Florida trailed not far behind. As far as causality is concerned, these states all share a considerable black and Hispanic population and by association are rife with poverty and less health-insurance coverage.

Robin Scher is a freelance writer from South Africa currently based in New York. He tweets infrequently @RobScherHimself.