Yesterday, The New York Times’ editorial board issued a poignant op-ed calling attention to impact of HIV on Black and Latino men who have sex with men (MSM). The editorial comes in direct response to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which revealed startling differences in lifetime risk of HIV.
According to the CDC, gay and bisexual men continue to the group most affected by the HIV epidemic, despite a decrease in the overall number of HIV diagnoses. If current trends continue, one in six MSM will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. The numbers are even more alarming for MSM of color. One in two Black MSM will contract HIV in their lifetimes. For Latino MSM, the odds are in one in four.
Where the CDC report fails to provide reasons for such stark differences, “health experts say that Black and Latino men are at higher risk because sex between men continues to be strongly stigmatized in those communities,” the Editorial Board explained. “Many are reluctant to get tested for H.I.V. or to consider taking PrEP because doing so would mean acknowledging behavior they are ashamed of.”
While there are certainly many factors at play, it’s worth noting that individual behavior is not one of them. For example, Black gay and bisexual men are less likely than their white counterparts to have sex without condoms or use drugs like crystal meth during sex.
The editorial board is right to point out that more can and should be done to address these disparities. HRC is committed to educating LGBT people and allies about the current realities of HIV, including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP); mobilizing grassroots support for HIV prevention and treatment efforts, and upholding the rights and well-being of people living with and affected by HIV. We are especially invested in developing the next generation of leaders who are critical to ending this epidemic, including gay and bisexual men and transgender women of color.
For more information about PrEP or HRC’s effort to combat the HIV epidemic and the stigma surrounding HIV, click here.