kevin-fenton_web.jpgAfrican Americans account for nearly half of all new HIV infections each year – more than for any other race or ethnicity, the Centers for Disease Control has reported. 

The CDC released the first multi-year estimates of the annual number of new HIV infections in the country, showing that while the number remained relatively stable overall between 2006 and 2009, sharp increases were seen among young black gay and bisexual men.

“We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men and the continued impact of HIV among young gay and bisexual men of all races,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said in a statement announcing the findings.

“More than 30 years into the HIV epidemic, about 50,000 people in this country still become infected each year.  Not only do men who have sex with men continue to account for most new infections, young gay and bisexual men are the only group in which infections are increasing, and this increase is particularly concerning among young African American MSM,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. “HIV infections can be prevented.  By getting tested, reducing risky behaviors, and getting treatment, people can protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, added, “Without intensified HIV prevention efforts, we are likely to face an era of rising infection rates and higher health care costs for a preventable condition that already affects more than one million people in this country.”

“HIV remains one of the most glaring health disparities in this country,” said Fenton.  “While we all have individual responsibility to protect ourselves from HIV infection, the research clearly shows that individual risk behavior alone doesn’t account for the significant racial disparities in HIV.  It is essential to understand the underlying factors that contribute to these disparities, such as poverty, discrimination and lack of access to health care.” 

Fenton said the greater overall prevalence of HIV in minority communities means individuals within those communities face greater risk of acquiring HIV with every sexual encounter.

The key points in the report, published in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE are:

• There were some 50,000 annual new HIV infections between 2006 and 2009.

• While blacks are about 14 percent of the population, they accounted for nearly half of new infections in 2009 (44 percent or an estimated 21,200 infections). The rate among blacks was nearly eight times as high as for whites and almost three times as high as for Hispanics. 

• Black men are hardest hit, comprising 70 percent of new infections among African Americans in 2009 – the vast majority being men who have sex with men.

• Young, black men who have sex with men — aged 13-29 — is the only sub-population to experience a statistically significant increase from 2006 through 2009, with new infections increasing 48 percent, from 4,400 in 2006 to 6,500 in 2009.

• Black women are also significantly impacted, accounting for nearly a third – 30 percent — of new infections among blacks and almost 60 percent of all new HIV infections among women overall in 2009.

CDC fact sheet: “Estimates of New HIV Infections in the United States, 2006–2009”; CDC’s fact sheet on HIV among African American MSM; Downloadable graphics, and; Full text of the incidence analysis published online in the scientific journal PLoS ONE

Photo: Kevin Fenton