MSM Most Affected by HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts, Report Says
Men who have sex with men are the most affected by HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts, according to a report released by the state Department of Public Health ahead of World AIDS Day, the AP/Worcester Telegram reports. According to the report, although Massachusetts has seen success in curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS among injection drug users and heterosexual men and women, it has had less success among MSM. "The message of prevention is missing too many men in Massachusetts," Kevin Cranston, director of the health department's HIV/AIDS Bureau, said.
The report found that more than half of HIV cases between 2004 and 2006 occurred among MSM. Four to nine percent of men in Massachusetts report having sex with other men in annual surveys, according to the AP/Telegram. It also found that 56% of MSM who participated in a 2005-2006 health survey reported regular condom use -- an increase compared with 36% in 2000.
In addition, the report said that 17,295 people in Massachusetts were living with HIV/AIDS as of May 2008, and male-to-male sexual contact is the primary mode of HIV transmission in the state. The proportion of MSM living with HIV/AIDS was 25 times greater than men who reported sex with only female partners, according to the report. Sixty-eight percent of white men reported exposure to HIV through same-sex contact, compared with 25% of black men and 25% of Hispanic men.
To improve the fight against HIV/AIDS in the state, the health department plans to merge its HIV/AIDS Bureau with its Communicable Disease Control Bureau. In addition, the report recommends that Massachusetts increase its efforts to promote condom use, including "widespread free condom availability" to MSM, including high-school students. "Condoms save lives, so it is a good sign that we are seeing an increase in condom use," health department Commissioner John Auerbach said, adding, "However, it is clear given the data in this report that more needs to be done with respect to reaching men who have sex with men with important HIV prevention messages."
The report also calls for increased access to rapid HIV tests and routine screening in hospital emergency departments, community health centers and private practices. It also recommends increasing HIV/AIDS prevention resources directed at MSM; expanding HIV testing efforts that target MSM; making prevention messages available at public, private and commercial venues, including the Internet; and preserving the availability of treatment (LeBlanc, AP/Worcester Telegram, 11/30).
The report is available online (.pdf).