Who's most at risk for HIV?

A young black man in a gray T-shirt sits, resting his chin on folded hands.

Dec. 26, 2018—Young black men who have sex with men (MSM) are 16 times more likely to have an HIV infection than their white peers, says a new study. That's true despite these men getting tested for HIV more often and practicing safer sex than MSM of other races.

The study, published in the Journal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes, highlights just how serious its finding may be. If these rates continue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts 1 out of every 2 black MSM will have an HIV infection at some point during his life. That's compared to 1 in 4 Hispanic MSM and 1 in 11 white MSM.

An HIV paradox

The study showed that these young black MSM are practicing less risky behaviors when it comes to sex. They report fewer sexual partners and get tested for HIV more frequently than their peers. But they still have higher rates of HIV diagnosis. The question is, why is this happening?

The researchers in the study said one reason is that young black MSM have denser social and sexual networks. That means the infection can quickly transmit through the group.

Looking closely at HIV risk

The study is the largest to look at why disparities exist in HIV infection. The researchers collected data from 1,015 MSM between the ages of 16 and 29 living in the Chicago metro area.

The study emphasized that there needs to be more focus placed on lowering these rates and improving access to medical care.

You can learn more about HIV in our HIV/AIDS health topic center.

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