New York City Sees ‘Dangerous Upswing’ in HIV Infections Among Black Gay Men
The HIV infection rate among New York City's young, gay African-American men "appears to be on a dangerous upswing," according to city Health Department data obtained by Newsday. A survey of 542 gay men ages 23 to 29 showed that New York City is facing "the strongest upturn in HIV infections" among gay men in the nation. Racial differences are the "[m]ost striking" results of the survey, Newsday reports, as 2% of gay white men were HIV-positive compared to 14% of gay Latinos and 33% of gay African Americans in the same age group. An epidemiological analysis of the data by LGNY, a publication of New York's gay and lesbian community, found that 4.5% to 6.3% of young gay men were becoming infected each year, compared with less than 1% of gay men nationally. Researchers visited gay establishments between March 1999 and July 2000, and volunteers who agreed to participate filled out "lengthy questionnaires" and were administered an HIV test. Study director Lucia Torian said that researchers "don't have a solid explanation for [racial disparities] because we don't see the kinds of differentials in behavior between black and white men to explain this." She added that "nearly every behavioral factor usually associated" with infection risk was either lower or "about equal" among African Americans, and all groups showed an "alarming tendency to risk having sex without using a condom." However, one "clear difference" among the groups was jail time: 18% of whites said they had spent "at least" one night in jail, compared to 39% of Latinos and 47% of African Americans. A 1999 CDC report found that 29% of all deaths in U.S. prisons were due to AIDS-related complications, Newsday reports, although there were no figures for rate of contraction during incarceration.
An 'Absolute Crisis'
Ronald Johnson, associate director of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, called the results a "disaster," and said that the findings confirmed that "prevention efforts have never been targeted adequately to gay men of color." Dr. Thomas Weisfuse, the city's associate commissioner for disease intervention, agreed that "more attention must be given to funding groups that reach out to young, gay, black and Latino men ... regardless of who the next mayor is." Rev. Al Sharpton called the numbers "an absolute crisis" and asked for government disaster relief to respond. The findings will be presented in two weeks at the Chicago Conference on Human Retroviruses (Garrett, Newsday, 1/24).