February 6, 2001
Study in 6 Cities Finds H.I.V. in 30% of Young Black Gays
By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN
Feb. 5 — Thirty percent of young gay black men are infected
with the AIDS virus, according to a study of six large cities in
the United States, federal researchers said here today.
The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention from 1998 through 2000 in Baltimore, Dallas, Los
Angeles, Miami, New York and Seattle, found that gay black men
in their 20's had the highest H.I.V. infection rate of any group
in that age range.
The study found that among young gay men, 15 percent of
Hispanics, 7 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 3 percent of
Asian-Americans, are infected with the virus. Over all, the
study found that 12.3 percent of gay and bisexual men from 23 to
29 were infected with H.I.V., the AIDS virus.
"The rates are strikingly high and worrisome," Dr.
Robert Janssen, a co-author of the study, said in an interview.
"We have not been putting adequate resources into gay men
of color. And we definitely need to bolster our efforts in
The study also found that gay and bisexual men in their 20's
of all races were engaging in behavior that put them at high
risk for AIDS, said federal researchers who presented the
findings at the Eighth Annual Retrovirus Meeting here today.
A total of 46 percent of participants said they had had
unprotected anal intercourse in the preceding six months.
Officials at the centers called the figure "alarming"
because the men grew up and went to school in an era when
widespread publicity and prevention efforts were directed at
AIDS. Many older gay men became infected before AIDS was
recognized. The disease was first detected in 1981 when the men
in the new study were 3 to 9 years old.
A similar study by the centers from 1994 to 1998 found that 7
percent of 15- to 22-year-old gay and bisexual men were infected
by H.I.V., Dr. Janssen said. That study found that 14 percent of
the blacks were infected, 7 percent of the Hispanics and 3
percent of the non-Hispanic whites. In recent years, about
40,000 Americans have become newly infected each year, with
blacks accounting for slightly more than half of the new cases.
At the height of the epidemic in the early 1980's, there were
more than 150,000 new infections annually.
But because the newer and earlier studies focused on
different age groups, there was no way to determine whether the
percentage of new infections in each group was rising, Dr.
Janssen said in an interview.
However, a number of other studies have shown small but
significant increases in rates of gonorrhea, syphilis and other
sexually transmitted infections. Epidemiologists use such
infections as behavior markers for the risk of new H.I.V.
infections in a community because of a strong correlation of
H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases among infected
individuals. Also, sexually transmitted infections can make it
easier for H.I.V. to enter the body.
Health officials also expressed concern that of the 293
infected men in the study, only 29 percent knew they were
infected. Fewer than one-fourth were receiving medical care or
Health officials suspect that a substantial proportion of
current H.I.V. transmission is from people who do not know they
San Francisco, which used a recently developed test to detect
recent H.I.V. infections, is the only city in the nation that
has reported an increase in infections among gay and bisexual
men in recent years. The test is available only for research
purposes. But Dr. Janssen expressed hope that it could be used
more broadly later this year.
Although there is no direct evidence of rising H.I.V. numbers
among gay and bisexual men in other areas of the country, the
new and earlier studies raise suspicions that such an increase
may be occurring, Dr. Janssen said.
In the six cities study, epidemiologists surveyed more than
2,400 men at bars and other places frequented by young gay men
and conducted extensive interviews.
The prevalence of infection ranged from a low of 4.7 percent
in Seattle to 18 percent in Dallas, and there was a high level
of risky sexual behavior in all six cities.
Gay men remain the largest group of people with AIDS,
accounting for about 40 percent of AIDS cases and new infections
reported in recent years. Women make up 30 percent.