March 10, 2010
2 min read

HIV and syphilis rates were highest among MSM

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The rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men was 44 times that of other men and 40 times that of women, and primary and secondary syphilis rates were 46 times that of other men and 71 times that of women, according to data presented at the 2010 National STD Prevention Conference in Atlanta.

“While the heavy toll of HIV and syphilis among gay and bisexual men has been long recognized, this analysis shows just how stark the health disparities are between this and other populations,” Kevin Fenton, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention and an Infectious Disease News editorial board member, said in a press release. “It is clear that we will not be able to stop the U.S. HIV epidemic until every affected community, along with health officials nationwide, prioritize the needs of gay and bisexual men with HIV prevention efforts.”

Study results also showed that the range of new HIV diagnoses among MSM was significantly higher — 522 to 989 per 100,000 — when compared with 12 per 100,000 other men and 13 per 100,000 women.

Similarly, the range of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM was 91 to 173 cases per 100,000 as opposed to two per 100,000 other men and one per 100,000 women.

CDC researchers also found that MSM comprise 2% of the overall U.S. population aged 13 years and older and 4% of the male population. They calculated disease rates using 2007 surveillance data on HIV and primary/secondary syphilis diagnoses and U.S. Census data for the total U.S. population.

The CDC plans to implement behavior-change programs for MSM and expand a successful HIV testing initiative to reach a larger portion of this population. The CDC is also implementing an updated National Syphilis Elimination Plan in cities with highest rates of disease among MSM and will release an updated HIV prevention strategic plan within the next year to support the president’s upcoming National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

“There is no single or simple solution for reducing HIV and syphilis rates among gay and bisexual men,” Fenton said. “We need intensified prevention efforts that are as diverse as the gay community itself. Solutions for young gay and bisexual men are especially critical so that HIV does not inadvertently become a rite of passage for each new generation of gay men.” - by Melissa Foster