CDC: HIV On the rise in Young Gay/Bisexual Males

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According to statistics released late last year by the Centers for Disease Control, the number of reported HIV and AIDS cases in the U.S. remains at about 50,000 cases a year. What has many alarmed, however, is that the numbers show a sharp increase in cases among young men ages 13-24.

According to the Bay Area Reporter,”young people between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S. account for more than a quarter of new HIV infections each year (26 percent) while 60 percent of these youth living with HIV are unaware they are infected.”

Prevention workers Jaysen Foreman, the Empowering Positive Youth program coordinator at Charlotte’s Regional AIDS  Interfaith Network (RAIN), tells Qnotes the rise is due to,”is a sign of crucial changes in how HIV is being perceived nationally, a reality he sees reflected among the young people he serves locally.”

“HIV doesn’t have this scary face anymore — it’s not the face of 30 years ago, there are no sunken cheeks and face, no lesions on the body. HIV is not a threatening or horrible, gruesome thing anymore.”

Geneva Galloway, who works as RAIN’s director of community services, tells Qnotes that stigma and fear continue to be a defining factor in the spread of HIV,“It boils down to this: If we don’t get a grasp on the stigma, HIV-positive people are not going to be willing to speak up about it,” Galloway said, noting the importance of disclosing one’s status. “Our goal should be educating people about the stigma that keeps people from disclosing their status.”

Education also continues to be an issue.

As the Bay Reporter points out,”MSM,(males who have sex with males), the report shows that those infected were less likely to report having been taught about HIV or AIDS in school.

Foreman and Galloway say prevention efforts for positives and safer-sex lessons are important, but more should be done to unite and amplify the voices of those most at-risk, “young people, and especially young African-American men, need to “stand on the front lines” like many gay men did during the early years of the epidemic.”

Here in Idaho there are two two important groups focusing on the demographic. Boise Mpowerment is an organization, “dedicated to building Boise’s young gay and bisexual men’s community.” The Genesis Project, in Pocatello, is focused on,”creating a safer and stronger community in Southeast Idaho where young men can feel empowered to make a difference in their own lives, the lives of their peers, and their community.” Both groups are very active within their communities and welcome new members.

“Overall, an estimated 12,200 new HIV infections in the U.S. occurred in 2010 among young people aged 13-24, with young gay and bisexual men and African-Americans hit harder by HIV than their peers. In 2010, for example, 72 percent of estimated new HIV infections in young people occurred in young men who have sex with men,” says the Reporter.

Currently, an estimated 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV.

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