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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 3 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 40
Half of HIV-positive Gay and Bi Americans don't get regular treatment, CDC says - Young men and men of color at greatest risk
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Half of HIV-positive Gay and Bi Americans don't get regular treatment, CDC says - Young men and men of color at greatest risk

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Half of the HIV-positive Gay and Bi men in the United States are not getting antiretroviral drugs or ongoing care, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) said in a new report.

The report, published in the September 26 edition of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is based on 2010 data from more than 40,000 Gay and Bi men in the U.S.

According to CDC research, 77.5% of the men did initially get medical care for their HIV infections within three months of their diagnosis. However, only 51% continued getting care on an ongoing basis.

While HIV can be managed for most patients with a standard drug regimen, the CDC found that less than half of men diagnosed as HIV-positive were prescribed the necessary drugs, and only 42% achieved 'viral suppression' - defined as an undetectable level of the HIV virus in their blood.

Younger men and men of color are at highest risk of not getting the HIV-related treatment they need, said CDC lead researcher Sonia Singh.

While 84% of men in the 45 to 54 age bracket got access to medical care immediately after their diagnosis, that proportion dropped to 71% for men aged 13 to 24. A similar 'age gap' was seen in statistics relating to ongoing retention in HIV medical care, the CDC study found.

The gap widened when CDC researchers looked at medication use. While nearly 68% of HIV-positive men aged 55 or older were on antiretrovirals, that number fell to just 30.5% for those aged 18 to 24, the study found.

Men of color were more likely to miss out on needed care compared to white patients, the CDC added. While about 83% of white Gay or Bi men with HIV got linked to care soon after their diagnosis, the rate for African Americans fell to about 72%.

All of these numbers fall short of targets set by the CDC's National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which aims to have 80% of HIV-positive Gay and Bi men engaged in ongoing medical care by 2015.

CDC researchers said many factors could explain why HIV-positive men did not get ongoing medical care for their condition.

'Lack of health insurance, stigma and discrimination might influence whether [Gay and Bisexual men] access medical care,' they wrote in their report.

The findings from the new report 'highlight the need for continued expansion of prevention, care and treatment efforts,' particularly for younger Gay and Bi men and men of color, the study said.

The CDC also noted that greater efforts need to be made to bring young men in for testing.

The CDC team noted that, 'in 2011, the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System in 20 cities found that only 49% of [Gay and Bi men] aged 18-24 years who tested positive were aware of their HIV infection.'

Young African American or Latino men are at much higher risk of not knowing their HIV status, the CDC added.

According to experts, early detection is crucial to getting newly diagnosed patients into care that can manage the virus, and curb the spread of HIV.

'Persons who are aware of their HIV-positive status are less likely to engage in risky behaviors that increase the probability of transmitting HIV to sex partners,' Singh's team noted.

Knowing your infection status can also help people 'enter into care and treatment earlier, further improving health outcomes,' they added.

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