HRC Blog

RISE Proud for Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Post submitted by Kali Lindsey, Director of Legislative and Public Affairs,
 National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC)

RISE proud projectAcross race, age, and geography, gay and bisexual men remain most vulnerable to HIV infection in the United States. Gay and bisexual men are the only group of people in which new HIV infections are increasing each year. We represent only 2 percent of the U.S. population, yet account for 64 percent of new infections. Young gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 29 comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 27 percent of all new infections. Black young men are especially hard-hit by the AIDS epidemic, experiencing a shocking 48 percent increase in the number of new HIV infections between 2006 and 2009, as well as an additional 20 percent increase in 2010 over that swell of infections.

As part of a Ford Foundation-funded effort, the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) recently issued its RISE Proud project to Combat HIV among Black Gay Men in the United States. This project includes an Action Plan with recommendations and action steps--aimed at the Obama Administration, the Congress, faith circles, the GLBT community, and other audiences--for addressing HIV in young gay men of color. The Action Plan was developed in concert with representatives from similarly missioned organizations and informed by HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) study 061, conducted in six U.S. cities and finding high levels of HIV infection, incarceration, and unemployment among Black gay men. 

For too many young gay men of color, these social maladies have led to HIV infection becoming a rite of passage to adulthood. While comprising only 2 percent of the U.S. population, gay and bisexual men are the only risk group in which HIV infection rates are rising, while the number of total yearly infections remains stable. Black gay men aged 13-29 constitute less than one-half of a percent of the general population. Young Black gay men aged 13 to 24 account for approximately 4,800 new HIV infections—more than any other age group or race of MSM.  Furthermore, they accounted for more than half of new infections among MSM aged 13 to 24.

The gay and lesbian community, at large, must ensure that equality efforts for our community also address the HIV epidemic and commit to the health and lives of young black gay men. The RISE Proud Plan encourages a comprehensive approach to address HIV among this demographic and highlights key actions for policymakers, gay community leaders, other community leaders, physicians and researchers, corporations and private funders, families and educators, and the faith community, as well as young gay men of color. The Action Plan acknowledges that social determinants—such as stigma, family rejection, social isolation, and homophobia—play significant roles in keeping these young men vulnerable to health and other disparities. Its goal is to galvanize and mobilize broad parts of American society to quell the rising tide of infections among young gay and bisexual men.

Greater health parity is needed for young Black gay men, whose health is too often challenged by poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse. While the Affordable Care Act will offer healthcare to thousands of these young men living with and vulnerable to HIV, we must still recognize the need for a renewed clarion call of commitment to the particular challenges these men face, which continue to place them in the crosshairs of our nation’s epidemic.  We will never end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. until we dramatically lessen the burden of HIV among young gay men of color.

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