(Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a rise in unprotected sex by gay men, leading to fears of new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections among the population.
The report classifies men who have sex with men (MSM) as a small proportion of the U.S. population, but notes that they represent the majority of persons diagnosed with HIV in nearly every state. While statistics show that unprotected anal sex among MSM increased nearly 20 percent from 2005 to 2011, only 67 percent of MSM went for an HIV test in the past 12 months.
"Unprotected anal sex is a high-risk practice for HIV infection, with receptive anal sex having the highest risk," CDC's Editorial Note wrote. "Unprotected anal sex also places MSM at risk for other sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Although condoms can reduce the risk for HIV transmission, they do not eliminate risk and often are not used consistently."
The report shared that some MSM attempt to work around the HIV risk by having unprotected sex only with partners who they believe have the same HIV status as their own, but warned that "this practice is risky, especially for HIV-negative MSM, because MSM with HIV might not know or disclose that they are infected and men's assumptions about the HIV status of their partners can be wrong."
CDC added that the reasons for this trend are not known, but might reflect the above-mentioned risk-reduction strategies being used more widely.
The national public health institute recommended that MSM be tested annually for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, reduce the number of sex partners, and use condoms constantly and correctly.
In July 2012, the Black AIDS Institute revealed in another report that black gay men are most affected by HIV/AIDS, and that infection rates for this group have become worse.
"Black MSM (men who sleep with men) continue to be first in line when it comes to need, but remain at the back of the line when it comes to assistance. This report not only highlights the gaps and why they still exist after 30 years, but it also provides a blueprint for how to close the gaps and move those most at risk up to the front," said Phill Wilson, founder and executive director of the Black AIDS Institute.
Some Christian pastors, such as the Rev. Anthony Lee of Community of Hope A.M.E. Church in Temple Hills, Md., who are raising awareness about AIDS and the importance of getting tested, have responded by getting tested directly from the pulpit.
"When you look at the numbers of HIV and AIDS in our area, you can see that they are really bad," Lee explained. "So we do testing, we have a barbershop and beauty shop outreach where we leave harm reduction information, we do trainings on HIV 101, and then we also have club tours. That is where our street team goes into the clubs handing out prevention material and condoms. Our tag line in the club outreach is: God Loves You. Love Yourself Enough To Protect Yourself."
In its recent report, CDC concluded that "reducing the burden of HIV among MSM is fundamental to reducing HIV infection in this country."