Last week, one of my twitter followers called me to task for writing an entire column on HIV and AIDS without focusing on the huge disparities by race/ethnicity. She was certainly correct about the critical role of such disparities. Yesterday–again on twitter–Chicago commissioner of public health Bechara Choucair drew my attention to an especially pertinent report on such matters.
Little by little, Chicago is making progress in addressing rising HIV incidence, non-diagnosis, and late treatment among young men who have sex with men. Thing’s aren’t great, or even remotely acceptable. Epidemiological data from the Chicago component of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance (NHBS) System indicate that HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) continues to rise. At least a higher proportion of men know their status and are getting treatment.
In 2008, 67% of surveyed (and tested) Black MSM found to be HIV-positive were not aware of their infection. By 2011, only 33% were similarly unaware. These numbers remain far too high. (The comparable figures among non-Hispanic White MSM were 23% and 9% in the same years.) Yet awareness is moving in the right direction. MSM who tested positive in 2011 were also more likely to be receiving appropriate medications than was found in 2008. Among African-Americans, the percentage of HIV-positive MSM reporting being on HIV medications increased from 44 to 84 percent. Among HIV-positive Hispanic MSM, there was a similarly large increase from 50 to 82 percent. (Again–among surveyed non-Hispanic white MSM, the comparable figures were, um, 90 and 100 percent.) These data are hardly airtight; epidemiological data concerning stigmatized behaviors seldom are. The basic story here seems consistent with other sources.
If you are still wondering why there is such urgency concerning African-American MSM, read the accompanying report. In particular, compare the top two lines from Figure 2 (below the fold). Both the level and the disparity remain really concerning. So any sign of progress is especially heartening.