Half of HIV-infected gay and bisexual men not receiving adequate treatment

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hiv 2A recent study by the from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that half of gay and bisexual men infected with HIV are not getting the treatment they need to stay healthy.

Gay and bisexual men are the demographic at highest risk for infection of HIV. Over half of all HIV infections occur in gay and bisexual men, although the group makes up about 2 percent of the population. A 2011 survey conducted as part of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System (NHBS) reported that almost 20 percent of gay and bisexual men tested for the virus were HIV positive.

The study, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) examined data from more than 400,000 cases of HIV in gay and bisexual men. While almost 78 percent received initial medical care after their HIV diagnosis, only 51 percent continued receiving care.

While there is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS, the disease can be managed by antiviral drugs. The CDC reported several possible reasons for the large percentage not receiving proper treatment, including lack of health insurance and stigma associated with the virus and homosexuality in general.

Those at highest risk of not getting treatment were younger men. Nearly 68 percent of infected men age 55 or older were taking HIV-suppressing medications, while only about 31 percent of infected men aged 18 to 24 were receiving treatment.

The CDC also noted that the NHBS found that only 49 percent of gay and bisexual men between 18 and 24 with HIV were even aware of their infection. When individuals are unaware of their HIV infection, they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex that lead to increased transmission.

Proper use of condoms can help prevent transmission of HIV. However, adequate treatment such as antiretroviral therapies not only reduce the chances of HIV transmission, they can also increase the life expectancy of the infected individual. Without proper treatment, almost all HIV-positive individuals will end up developing AIDS.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom, a former researcher in the area says, This is really a shame. After three decades of research most of it coming from the pharmaceutical industry AIDS has been tamed to the point that with proper medication, HIV-infected people can now expect to live close to a normal life span, and drastically reduce the chances of infecting other people. AIDS is well under control, but only if antiretroviral drugs are used regularly.

You can read Dr. Bloom s 2010 op-ed in the New York Post about this very subject here.