HIV infection has a disproportionately greater impact on homosexuals and men who have sex with men in the US, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Surveillance (CDC).
The researchers estimated that the rate of new HIV infections among homosexuals and bisexuals is 44 times higher than in other men, and about 40 times higher than in women.
Recently analyzed data have also shown that syphilis rates are up to 71 times higher among homosexual and bisexual men compared to other population groups.
"It is clear that we will not be able to stop the HIV epidemic in the US until all infected communities, along with health authorities around the world, prioritize the needs of homosexual and bisexual men with HIV prevention efforts," commented Dr Kevin Fenton of the CDC.
Homosexuals are responsible for 48% of the million HIV infections in the US. The only group in which new diagnoses are increasing is that of men who have sex with men, which in 2006 included 53% of all HIV infections in the country.
CDC data, presented at the 2010 National STI Prevention Conference, showed that there were about 522 to 989 new infections by 100 000 homosexual and bisexual men each year, compared with 12 by 100 000 among other men and 13 by 100 000 among women.
This means that the rate of new HIV infections was about 44 times higher among homosexual and bisexual men than in other groups.
The syphilis rate was calculated from 73 to 91 cases by 100 000 in homosexual and bisexual men, about 48 times higher than the rate of two by 100 000 observed in other men, and 71 times higher than one per 100 000 observed in women.
CDC data also revealed the unequal impact of HIV infection on different populations of homosexual and bisexual men.
The largest number of new HIV infections among homosexuals in 2006 involved Caucasian homosexuals (12 230), followed by black ethnic men (10 130).
Among Caucasian homosexuals, most of the new infections were in 30-year-old men (4670), followed by those between 40 and 49 (3740).
A different age profile was observed in black homosexuals. The new infections were disproportionately located between 13 and 29 (5200).
The researchers found that the prevalence of HIV infection among homosexuals in some urban centers reached 25%. Additionally, about 50% of men were unaware of their infection, and this number increased to 80% among some younger homosexual populations.
The CDC believes that the complex interaction of various factors is increasing HIV infection among homosexuals.
Most important is the high prevalence of HIV among homosexuals. This means that each sexual encounter increases the risk of exposure to the virus. Researchers believe that homosexual relationships between black youth and older men may also lead to increased risk.
The large number of undiagnosed homosexual infections are also believed to contribute to the spread of HIV.
Complacency is also advanced as an explanation. The CDC has stated that this is the case for most young homosexuals who have not “personally experienced the severity of the first AIDS epidemic.”
However, this type of reasoning does not explain the large number of new HIV infections among men between 30 and 50 years.
Advances in HIV treatment have led, according to the CDC's perception, some homosexual men to develop the “false belief” that “HIV is no longer a serious health issue.”
The difficulty in having lifelong safe sex is also suggested as a contributing factor.
Homophobia and other forms of discrimination, which may prevent men from accessing prevention and health care services, are also, according to the CDC, contributing factors to the spread of HIV among homosexuals, such as high levels of use. drugs.
"The risk of HIV transmission through receptive anal sex is much greater than the risk of transmission through other sexual activities, and some gay and bisexual men rely on prevention strategies that may be less effective than consistent condom use," commented the CDC.
They stressed that many of the syphilis infections in homosexuals are probably transmitted via oral sex.
"There is no single or simple solution to reducing rates of HIV and syphilis infection among gay and bisexual men," said Fenton. "We need to intensify prevention efforts that are as diverse as the community itself." Solutions for gay and bisexual youth are urgent so that HIV does not inadvertently become a rite of passage for every new generation of homosexuals. ”