A recent report by the Black AIDS Institute indicates that Black gay men are more affected by AIDS than any population in the developed world.
The report “Back of the Line: The State of AIDS Among Black Gay Men in America” highlights why the disparities persist, and the urgent need for local and national leadership to address the health crisis.
“The report is important for a number of reasons. Number one, it highlights the neglect that’s happening in this particular population — that we have a generalized AIDS epidemic among Black men who have sex with men (MSM) in America,” says Phill Wilson, founder and executive director of the Black AIDS Institute.
Wilson says Black gay men account for one in four of new HIV infections.
The report notes that Black gay men are significantly less likely to be alive three years after being diagnosed with AIDS, than white or Latino MSM. According to “Back of the Line,” Black gay men have a one in four chance of becoming infected by HIV by the age of 25, and by the age of 40, their risk rises to 60 percent.
“One of the things that I am most proud of about the report is that it talks about solutions. Yes we have a big problem — but there are solutions to the problem if we dare to act. Quite frankly some of those solutions are important for the Black community at large,” said Wilson.
The report provides a plan to address the AIDS crisis facing Black MSM which includes increasing access to vital services such as HIV testing, treatment and prevention services; reducing sexually transmitted diseases; introducing pre-exposure prophylaxis; building a sustainable community infrastructure and implementing a national plan to reduce the vulnerability of Black MSM.
Wilson says the implantation of the Affordable Care Act is one important step in reducing HIV disparities amongst Blacks.
“The Affordable Care Act is probably the most important health legislation in the last 40 years and is particularly important for Black folks. It does a number of things that matter to us,” Wilson said, pointing out the legislation’s role in expanding health insurance to millions and enabling people with pre-existing conditions to receive insurance coverage.
The report also calls on national leaders to make the fight against AIDS among Black MSM a central priority.
“Current policies do not adequately address the unique needs of Black MSM in America. Local and national leaders must remain vigilant in the fight against AIDS, especially in the Black community, which continues to carry that heaviest burden,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters said in a release.
“Unless we change the way we do business, we cannot reverse the epidemic. No one should be forced to the back of the line.”
According to the report, there are several factors associated with elevated HIV risk among Black MSM such as diminished health care access and health service utilization; a higher prevalence of other sexually transmitted diseases; sexual behavioral patterns among young Black MSM; and issues including poverty, unemployment, homelessness, experience of childhood sexual abuse or other trauma; hostile home environments and risk of incarceration.
The Institute also ranked 25 cities to determine which address the HIV-related needs of Black MSM most effectively and those that do not. Washington, D.C., New York, N.Y., and Los Angeles, Calif., ranked as the top three cities, while Gary, Indiana; Memphis, Tenn.; and Richmond, Va., came in as the worst. The ranking was based on factors that include federal funding for HIV, testing rates, Medicaid policies, anti-discrimination provisions and HIV criminalization.
Wilson says that Philadelphia must scale up its programming efforts in order to become a top city in addressing the HIV-related needs of Black gay men.
“There are some innovative programs going in in Philadelphia but yet there continues to be a raging epidemic in Philadelphia. I think the challenge in Philadelphia is critical mass. Right now we have small programs that are not up to scale. There are small efforts and they’re not coordinated — they’re disconnected,” he added.
The report was highlighted during the XIX International AIDS conference held July 22–27 in Washington, D.C. The Institute is hosting a post-conference update on September 19 and 20 in Philadelphia.
The California-based Institute is the only national HIV/AIDS think tank in the U.S. focused exclusively on Blacks.