Preliminary data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene shows that HIV infection is on the rise among young gay and bisexual men in the city. Over the past six years, HIV diagnoses increased by 33% in such men under the age of thirty, from 372 in 2001 to 500 in 2006. Most shocking was that for gay and bisexual males ages thirteen to nineteen, diagnoses increased by 50%, from thirty-four in 2001 to sixty-eight in 2006. Ultimately, men under the age of thirty now make up 44% of all new HIV diagnoses in NYC, compared to 30% in 2001. Minorities, namely blacks and Hispanics, made up most of the HIV diagnoses in NYC. Indeed, these groups represented over 90% of the gay and bisexual men under the age of twenty diagnosed with HIV. Blacks were twice as likely to be diagnosed with HIV as whites in 2006 (232 versus 101), and Hispanics received 55% more diagnoses than whites did (157 versus 101).
These statistics are tragic, and what makes matters worse is that this problem is preventable. One approach is the development and widespread use of the rapid HIV test. Although taking a test is not considered prevention, it can aid in the prevention of the spread of HIV if those who get positive results take the proper measures to ensure that they do not infect anyone else. Anyone age twelve or over can get free, confidential, anonymous HIV testing and STD treatment at ten STD clinics run by the NYC Department of Health. Parental notification is not required. The clinics use a quick saliva test that gives results within thirty minutes. A study done in 2005, using the rapid test among gay and bisexual men in populations in five major cities concluded that 25% were HIV positive, and almost one-half of these were unaware of their status.
Although these numbers are upsetting, we hope that it shines light on how many people are unaware that they are carriers and motivates everyone to get tested. Until people are more responsible about testing themselves and their sexual partners, it will be very difficult to control the spread of HIV. More information on clinic locations and hours is available at http://home2.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/std/std2.shtml.
Using condoms during sexual activity and reducing the number of sexual partners can also have a great impact on the spread of HIV. NYC distributes 3 million free condoms a month through clinics, bars, and restaurants. More information on where to get free condoms is available at http://www.nyccondom.org.