On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study for the first time predicting lifetime HIV risk based on race. In 2005, the lifetime risk for Americans to be infected with HIV was 1 in 78 people. Since then, the numbers have changed to 1 in 99 people, but although the numbers are improving overall, the declining rates affect certain races more than others. Gay and bisexual African American males are still at greatest risk for infection, and the Hispanic homosexual population places a close second.
Without even taking sexual orientation into account, the CDC estimates 1 in 20 black men and 1 in 48 black women will be infected with the virus in their lifetimes. When one starts looking into the LGBT community specifically, the CDC predicts that half of all gay black men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. For Hispanic minorities, the predictions are better but are still disproportionately high, stating that a quarter of all gay Hispanic men will be infected.
“These estimates are a sobering reminder that gay and bisexual men face an unacceptably high risk for HIV—and of the urgent need for action,” said Dr. Eugene McCray, head of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. “If we work to ensure that every American has access to the prevention tools we know work, we can avoid the outcomes projected in this study.”
The CDC notes that part of the reason why African Americans have a greater infection rate is because they “tend to have sex with partners of the same race/ethnicity mean[ing] that [they] face a greater risk of HIV infection with each new sexual encounter.”
“As alarming as these lifetime risk estimates are, they are not a foregone conclusion. They are a call to action,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention.