According to a new fact sheet released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 2 percent of American men have sex with men, but gay and bisexual men represent more than half (55 percent) of all Americans living with HIV. Of course, some of that reflects thirty-five years of the HIV epidemic's impact on the gay community.
More disconcerting, however, is the fact that gay and bi men accounted for 83 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 2014 and 92 percent of new diagnoses among men between the ages of 13 and 24. If this trend continues, the CDC predicts one in six gay and bi men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime — that includes half of all gay and bi African American men, 25 percent of all Hispanic/Latino men who have sex with men, and nearly 10 percent of white gay and bi men.
While HIV knows no gender or sexual orientation, gay and bisexual men continue to experience the highest number of HIV cases in the United States,
The consequences of going untested are no longer hypothetical. They are here, staring at us directly in the face. It’s time for gay and bisexual men to stop lying to themselves. These lies have seeped into our culture, and, as a result, into our selfworth.
Homophobia and discrimination are built in to society's construct, preventing us from seeking health services and quality ways of prevention. Did you know there are 4.5 million gay and bisexual men in America? Nearly 15 percent are living with HIV. One in seven are HIV-positive and don’t know it, which means they are unaware they may be transmitting the virus through unprotected sex to men who are not using PrEP. In a separate report, the CDC estimated that over 20,000 Americans are taking PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis: the pill-a-day strategy that prevents HIV transmission when taken consistently. We need even more people to adopt the prevention strategy to stop the epidemic.
Nearly $400 million has been awarded from CDC over the last five years to fight the disease. There are resources if you seek them out. But first we need to put down our iPhones and look in the mirror.
We all need to take control of our health. In particular, each of us is responsible for maintaining our own sexual health. No one else is going to do it. And you can't take control of your health until you know if you are HIV-positive or HIV-negative. Get tested. Regardless of the results, you can then actively prevent the spread of HIV in our community.
As a community, it's up to us to not only warn of the consequences of not doing so, but also remind ourselves that we have value. We deserve long, happy, healthy, and sexually active lives. Sure, we can do that with HIV, but it's just easier without the disease. So, remind yourself where to find Local STD Testing Centers, take your friends to get tested, encourage those with HIV to get treatment and those who are negative to consider PrEP; and always know that you're never alone. We are a community. And as a community, gay and bisexual men can stay healthy and continue looking forward to a bright future.