Lack Of HIV Prevention Efforts Among MSM Fueling Increase In New Diagnoses

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A lack of HIV prevention efforts and an increase in risky sexualbehaviors among men who have sex with men are fueling an increase innew HIV diagnoses among the group, Kevin De Cock, director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS Department; Ronald Valdiserri of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and Harold Jaffe, a public health professor at the University of Oxford, write in a commentary in the Nov. 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Washington Times reports.


Accordingto the commentary, the number of HIV/AIDS cases among U.S. MSMincreased by 13% -- from 16,167 to 18,296 -- between 2001 and 2005.Syphilis cases also increased 10-fold among MSM (Wetzstein, Washington Times,11/28). In addition, recent surveys have found an increase in riskysexual behavior among MSM who do not know their partners' HIV status,the authors write (Jaffe et al., JAMA, 11/28).

Accordingto the authors, a lack of awareness about HIV and a decrease in HIVprevention efforts are fueling the increase. HIV/AIDS is "not asfrightening as it was" when the epidemic first surfaced becauseantiretroviral drugs have allowed HIV-positive people to live longer,the authors write. In addition, younger MSM are unfamiliar with theeffects of HIV among U.S. MSM in the 1980s, the commentary says.

Theauthors called on public health and community leaders to increase HIVprevention efforts and education about safer-sex behaviors to help curbthe spread of the virus. Leaders also "must call for the end of stigmatoward MSM, which may mitigate the internalization of homophobialeading to sexual risk behavior," the authors write. They add thatleaders also should "advocate for legal domestic partnerships as a wayto promote stable, longer-term" relationships among MSM (Washington Times,11/28). In addition, HIV testing rates among MSM should be increasedbecause many members of the group are not aware of their HIV status,the authors write. "Failure to address" issues such as testing, fundingfor public health strategies and community leadership "implies that theHIV/AIDS epidemic in MSM must be accepted as inevitable," the authorswrite, concluding that "this cannot be allowed to happen. The tragedyof the epidemic for an earlier generation of MSM must not be repeated" (JAMA, 11/28).

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