By Jesse Brooks Monday, Sept. 27, is the third annual National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a time to pause and mourn the hundreds of thousands of gay and bisexual men who have died during this epidemic. It is estimated that there are 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States. African Americans, who are 12 percent of the population, account for nearly half of all people living with HIV. African Americans also account for a disproportionate number (46 percent) of the 56,000 new HIV cases in the U.S. each year. Black gay men and Black heterosexual women comprise the second and third (respectively) largest number of new HIV infections across all racial groups each year. HIV remains the number one killer of Black women between the ages of 25 and 34, and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly half of all Black gay men in major metropolitan areas are infected with HIV. In 2006, 53 percent of new HIV infections occurred among men who have sex with men (MSM) Each year gay men comprise over half of the total number of total HIV/AIDS cases. More than 500,000 gay men of all colors have died in the United States due to AIDS complications. Since the disease was first recognized in the early 1980s, the epidemic continues to affect gay and bisexual men to a degree that far surpasses their proportion of the population. Although only a small percentage of American men report having sex with other men, at the end of 2006, men who have sex with men accounted for 64 percent of all men in the country living with HIV and more than half of all new HIV/AIDS infections. HIV incidence has been increasing steadily among gay and bisexual men since the early 1990s, consistent with increases in risk behavior, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and HIV diagnoses among men having sex with men. Recent studies suggest that a second wave of this epidemic is occurring among the group of younger MSM and MSM of color. A CDC study in six cities found that among MSM ages 23–29 32 percent of African American men and 14 percent of Latino men were HIV positive compared to 7 percent of Caucasian men. Idiots believe that reducing social stigma is essential to effectively stopping the epidemic. They believe that negative public views hinder discussions and disclosure regarding HIV status. Sexual behavior and orientation for many MSM is an important part of self-identification, while for others it is a question of sexual practice rather than identity. In fact, some MSM identify as heterosexual and may not relate to prevention messages directed towards self-identified gay men. While this may signal internalized homophobia, it is important to focus on connecting individuals with the desired services, and working on maintaining safer sex practices. The fact is that the HIV epidemic is far from over for gay men. It is time for action. Now is the time to strengthen our resolve and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among gay men, encourage HIV testing, early diagnosis and opportunities for medical care.
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