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HIV resurges in men who have sex with men

A new analysis of HIV among "men who have sex with men" points to troubling signs of increases in new diagnoses among young men who have sex with men, officials warn.
/ Source: Reuters

A new analysis of HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men points to a troubling  increase in new cases among young men, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.

Public health experts use the term "men who have sex with men," or MSM, because many of these men are not strictly homosexual or even bisexual.

Between 2001 and 2006, male-to-male sex was the largest HIV transmission category in the U.S., and the only one associated with an increasing number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses, according to a report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The jump was highest — an increase of 12.4 percent — among boys and men between the ages of 13 and 24 years who had sex with other males, particularly among ethnic minorities.

"To reduce transmission of HIV among MSM of all races/ethnicities, prevention strategies should be strengthened, improved, and implemented more broadly," CDC health officials wrote in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Testing is important, they add, because "after persons become aware that they are HIV positive, most reduce their high-risk sexual behavior."

The report describes trends in diagnoses of HIV/AIDS in 33 states that have confidential, name-based HIV case reporting.

Of 214,379 diagnoses during the study period, 46 percent were among MSM. The rate of new diagnoses declined in all other transmission categories — injection drug use, high-risk heterosexual contact, and other routes of transmission.

Among all MSM, the estimated annual percentage change was 1.5 percent, the great majority of which involved the 13 to 24 year age group.

Among racial/ethnic groups, the annual increase in the number of diagnoses among MSM was highest among Asian/Pacific Islanders at 12.1 percent, followed by a 3.6 percent rate among American Indians/Alaska Natives; however, these two groups accounted for fewer than 1 percent of all diagnoses made during the study period. The annual increase was 1.9 percent among both African Americans and Hispanics, and 0.7 percent among Caucasians.

In MSM younger than age 25, African Americans bore the greatest burden with 7,658 new diagnoses (annual rate of change of 15 percent), followed by 3,221 new cases among Caucasians (9 percent annual increase) and 2,422 new cases among Hispanics (8 percent).

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. To address the disproportionately high rate of HIV infection among blacks, the CDC has increased the number of testing sites in 23 geographic areas with the largest number of HIV cases. A list of testing sites is available at www.hivtest.org