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Sep 12, 2007 News: HIV Infections Among Youngsters Raising in New York
By Sven Rabatzky

(USA) - HIV infection is on the rise among young Gay and Bisexual men in New York City, according to preliminary research data from the US Health Department. New HIV diagnoses among Gay and Bisexual men under age 30 have grown by 33% in the past six years from 374 in 2001 to almost 500 in 2006. New diagnoses have doubled for the youngsters aged 13 to 19, while declining by 22% among older men. The under-30 group now accounts for 44% of all new diagnoses among Gay and Bisexual men in New York City, up from 31% in 2001.

“We are very concerned about the increase in HIV among young men who have sex with men,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Health Commissioner for New York City. “We’re headed in the wrong direction. Unless young men reduce the number of partners they have, and protect themselves and their partners by using condoms more consistently, we will face another wave of suffering and death from HIV and AIDS.”

Debra Frasier-Howe, president of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, said: “These numbers are devastating. After 26 years of AIDS, we cannot drift backward. We must ask all New Yorkers to accept some responsibility for helping our young people protect themselves. Their lives are not dispensable.”

Tokes Osubu, executive director of Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), joined in: “Reversing this trend will require a new commitment to protecting this most underserved population. GMAD will continue to work with other stakeholders to save the lives of our young men. We need an integrated approach across city agencies, social justice organizations and AIDS organizations, and a less judgmental approach by faith institutions.”

Wendy Stark, interim executive director of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, stated: “Health care in a supportive and affirming setting can foster healthy choices. We encourage all New Yorkers to identify a primary care provider with whom they feel comfortable discussing sexual behavior and substance use.”

Blacks and Hispanics still bear a disproportionate share of New York City’s HIV burden. Among all Gay and Bisexual men, blacks received twice as many HIV diagnoses as whites in 2006 (232 versus 101), and Hispanics received 55% more than whites (157 versus 101). The disparity is even more striking among adolescents; more than 90% of the Gay and Bisexual men under age 20 diagnosed with HIV in 2006 were black or Hispanic (81 out of 87). Gay leaders complain that the wide-spread homophobia in Black and Hispanic communities forces many Gay youth into closet and make it difficult for them to access the necessary information and services. The „down-low“ attitude makes it impossible for many Gay youth to have stable relationships with other men and drives them to risky behaviour.

Every borough except Staten Island has seen HIV increase among Gay and Bisexual men under 30 since 2001. The largest increases occurred in Queens (49%) and Manhattan (57%). The increase in Manhattan was concentrated in East and Central Harlem (up 115%, from 26 to 56), and in the Chelsea and Clinton areas (up 56%, from 25 to 39).

To focus on more recent trends in HIV infection, this analysis excluded Gay and Bisexual men who were diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at the same time, generally indicating that the infection has progressed for many years. In 2006, 20% of Gay and Bisexual men diagnosed with HIV received a concurrent diagnosis of AIDS (285 men), meaning that they had missed opportunities for care to stay healthy and may have unknowingly spread HIV to others.

The new HIV data parallel a recent US Health Department report showing a sharp increase in the number of syphilis cases among Gay and Bisexual men in New York City during the first quarter of 2007. The syphilis increase has affected both younger and older Gay and Bisexual men, and half of those newly diagnosed with syphilis in New York City also report being infected with HIV. Syphilis and HIV are a dangerous combination, because syphilis causes genital sores (making HIV easier to spread) and HIV lowers immunity (which can make syphilis harder to treat).

Extra-strong latex condoms used with oil-free lubricant reduce the HIV infection risk by more than 95%. Protect yourself and your partner!

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