Are Gay Men More At Risk For HIV?

March 16, 2010

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men who engage in sex with other men (MSM) increase their risk for being diagnosed with HIV by 44 times more than that of heterosexual men, and 40 times more than that of women. The results of this CDC analysis were reported at the 2010 National STD Prevention Conference.

Increased Risk

In addition to these figures, the CDC also announced that such men also have an increased risk for syphilis which is estimated as 46 times more than heterosexual men. MSM also have a higher general risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) than women, with their rate 71 times that of women.

The CDC's Kevin Fenton said that the purpose of the analysis was to show, "just how stark the health disparities are between this and other populations."

Fenton says that the medical experts won't be able to put a stop to the U.S. HIV epidemic until each community, with the help of health officials, makes it a priority to provide HIV prevention education and outreach to gay and bisexual men. The scientist stresses that there is no one way or easy method for reducing the rates of HIV and syphilis in gay and bisexual men. "We need intensified prevention efforts that are as diverse as the gay community itself," said Fenton in his prepared statement.

GLBT Annoyance

Some members of the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) community expressed annoyance at the entire idea of this analysis. They felt that the analysis was based on misplaced ideas and in reality, offered no new information. But in general, the GLBT community feels that any analysis of gay and bisexual men will be flawed because of the amorphous definition of these categories: is there a concise way to define these lifestyles so that we can get an accurate picture of their numbers within the U.S.?

The CDC attacked the problem by making two assumptions and two calculations based on these assumptions. The first assumption held that MSM make up 4% of the population. The second assumption posited that MSM are 2% of the population. The second assumption generated a much worse scenario: the numbers of those with HIV doubled and so too, did the ratios for HIV, syphilis, and other STD's.

The GLBT community is wondering what it would mean if those assumptions were erroneous. If MSM turned out to be a much larger part of the U.S. population, then the computations would likely not show such a huge disparity in the rates for HIV, syphilis, and STD's in this group. According to the earliest study on human sexuality, the Kinsey study, 30% of all men had experienced at least one encounter with another man at some point during their lifetimes.

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