AIDS 2012: “BROTHERS” Study Shows Huge HIV Burden Among U.S. Black Gay and Bi Men
Young black gay men are becoming infected with HIV at three times the rate of their white counterparts, according to interim results from the HPTN 061 study, also known as the “BROTHERS” study (short for “Broadening the Reach of Testing, Health Education, Resources and Services for Black Men Who Have Sex With Men”).
The study enrolled 1,553 gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in six cities across the United States: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. HIV infection in the study was linked with both poverty and very high rates of untreated sexually transmitted infections. (An excellent summary of the findings is available over at AIDSmap.com.)
“We have known that black MSM are affected by HIV at disproportionately higher rates when compared to other MSM in the U.S., but the HPTN 061 HIV incidence rates were extremely high,” said study co-chair Darrell Wheeler of Loyola University in a statement released by the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN). “They make it very clear that we must urgently find and implement ways to stem the spread of HIV among black gay men in this country, and critically among young black gay men.”
Below is an excerpt from the HPTN statement on these initial study results.
New Study Finds Greatly Elevated HIV Infection Rates Among Young Black Gay and Bisexual Men in the U.S.
Study results released today by the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) show disturbing rates of new HIV infections occurring among black gay and bisexual men in the U.S. (also known as men who have sex with men, or MSM), particularly young black MSM. The HPTN 061 study showed that the overall rate of new HIV infection among black MSM in this study was 2.8% per year, a rate that is nearly 50% higher than in white MSM in the U.S. Even more alarming, HPTN 061 found that young black MSM—those 30 years of age and younger—acquired HIV infection at a rate of 5.9% per year, three times the rate among U.S. white MSM. The overall infection rate among black MSM in this U.S study is comparable to the rate seen in the general populations of countries in sub-Saharan Africa hardest hit by the HIV epidemic. . . .
The results arrive at a time when HIV/AIDS advocates and researchers alike are calling for more attention to social and structural problems—including homophobia, discrimination, and poverty—that are driving up HIV infection rates in gay men and other men who have sex with men and hindering access to medical care and services. Speaking at an earlier satellite session devoted to health equity for gay and bisexual men of color, David Malebranche of Emory University stressed that, while current biomedical advances in HIV prevention are exciting, “dealing with all the social things is a lot more complicated.”
In a similar vein, at a Tuesday-afternoon symposium around the Lancet special issue on HIV and MSM, the CDC’s Gregorio Millett shared evidence that, compared with other U.S. men who have sex with men, African-American gay men are twice as likely to have some structural barrier (such as unemployment or low income, history of incarceration, or less education) that raises their HIV risk. As amfAR’s Chris Collins said at the symposium, “the best biomedical and behavioral interventions cannot succeed” without safe, discrimination-free places for gay and bi men to access HIV prevention tools and high-quality medical care and services.
Reilly O’Neal is a freelance writer and former editor of BETA.