For Gay Black Men, Risk of HIV/AIDS infection Is Higher Than Ever
HIV among gay black men is getting worse.
Actually, much worse, says Phill Wilson, founder and executive director of the Black AIDS Institute, the only organization in the country dedicated to specifically catering to HIV-positive African Americans.
"Gay black men continue to be first in line when it comes to need, but remain at the back of the line when it comes to assistance," Wilson said, mimicking the message of a newly released report by his nonprofit.
The 75-page report, called "Back of the Line: The State of AIDS Among Black Gay Men in America," was released this July.
Out of men who have sex with other men (MSM), a young black man has roughly a 1-in-4 chance of being infected by age 25, the report shows. By the time he is 40 years old, the odds that he’ll be alive are about 60 percent.
The report got its information from different governmental agencies, like the Center for Disease Control, books and medical journals. It took four months to put together, Wilson said.
Black gay men only represent a minute part of the U.S. population-about one in every 500 Americans is a black MSM-yet they are the group with the highest risk of new infections. From 2006 to 2009, the rate of new infections among young gay black men rose by 48 percent, but why?
According to Wilson, their disproportionate risk of HIV can be traced to their poor access to health services, a high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual activity at an early age among gay men. He adds that governmental agencies and LGBT organizations just don’t care as much about this affected minority and thus do not allocate the necessary resources.
"The natural homes for black gay men-the black and LGBT communities- have similarly failed to prioritize the AIDS fight among black men who have sex with men. And the philanthropic sector, once a robust presence in the AIDS fight, has withered away, with a mere handful of funders continuing to support community-based AIDS programs," the report reads.
California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters agrees.
"Current policies do not adequately address the unique needs of Black MSM in America. Local and national leaders must remain vigilant in the fight against AIDS, especially in the Black community, which continues to carry the heaviest burden," Waters said in a statement. "Unless we change the way we do business, we cannot reverse the epidemic."
In addition to citing infection rates, the study ranked 25 major cities to see which addressed the needs of HIV-positive black MSM most effectively. Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and New York hit the top of the list, while Gary, IN, Memphis, TN, and Richmond, VA, were the three worst.
While Florida didn’t make the cut for the worst cities, Wilson says the HIV prevalence among Black MSM in Florida is "unacceptably high."
According to 2008 statistics from the Florida Department of Health , the HIV/AIDS rate for black men (straight or gay) is nearly five times the rate for white men: 1 in 31 black men in Palm Beach County had HIV or AIDS. In Broward County, 1 in 41 black men were infected; and in Miami-Dade, 1 in 29.
Numbers from 2009, specifically in terms of black MSM, state that one in 12 men in Florida has AIDS. In Miami-Dade, it’s one in eight.
The problem, Wilson says, is that available resources in South Florida are not explicitly targeting gay black men.