(Reuters Health) – Gay and bisexual men are at increased risk of acquiring the virus that leads to AIDS if they have mental health problems, according to a new study. What’s more, their risk of acquiring HIV increases with the number of mental health factors they report, researchers found. Past studies have found that mental disorders, ranging from depression to substance abuse, are often seen among men with HIV, but “nothing about whether these factors predict HIV risk behaviors or becoming infected with HIV,” said study leader Matthew Mimiaga, from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that some 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. About one case in six is undiagnosed. While the CDC says only about 4 percent of U.S. males have sex with other men, they represent about two-thirds of the country’s new infections. Additionally, it’s known that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community also suffers from an increased burden of mental health problems.
When two health conditions tend to occur together in one population, researchers call them “syndemic.” For the new study in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, the researchers looked at how five conditions – depression, alcohol abuse, stimulant use, multi-drug abuse and exposure to childhood sexual violence – affect men’s risk of acquiring HIV. They analyzed data on 4,295 men who reported having sex with men within the previous year. The participants were asked about depressive symptoms, heavy alcohol and drug use and childhood sexual abuse.
Compared with other high-income Western nations, the United States fares remarkably poorly in getting people with HIV diagnosed, into stable care, on treatment and to an undetectable viral load, aidsmap reports. Researchers conducted an analysis of the “treatment cascade” figures for Australia, British Columbia (statistics for all of Canada were not available), Denmark, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Results were presented at the HIV Drug Therapy Glasgow conference in Scotland.
The estimated rates of HIV diagnosis among the countries ranged from a low of 71 percent in British Columbia to a high of 86 percent in Australia, with the United States at 82 percent. The United States had the lowest rate of linkage to care, at 66 percent, and Denmark had the highest at 81 percent. The United States had by far the lowest rate of HIV-positive people retained in care at 37 percent, with British Columbia the next lowest at 57 percent. Australia’s 76 percent care-retention rate was the highest.
Because of the United States’ low retention figures, the remainder of the nation’s figures were also markedly lower than the other countries’. The U.S. rate of people with HIV taking antiretrovirals was 33 percent. The high for that figure was the United Kingdom’s 67 percent. The rates of viral suppression were as follows: the United States, 25 percent; British Columbia, 35 percent; France, 52 percent, the Netherlands, 53 percent, the United Kingdom, 58 percent; Denmark, 59 percent; and Australia, 62 percent.
To read the aidsmap story, click here.
To read the conference abstract, click here.
From U.S. News and World Report …
Even though Hispanics in the United States become infected with HIV at rates triple those of whites, less than half of Hispanics with the virus are receiving adequate treatment, a new report finds. The report, based on 2010 U.S. government health data, finds that while 80 percent of HIV-infected Hispanics do receive care soon after their diagnosis, only about 54 percent continue that care and only about 44 percent receive the virus-suppressing drugs they need to stay healthy.
From the New York Times…
Gay men and their doctors aren’t talking enough about sex, and that’s making it harder to control the spread of H.I.V.
That’s the conclusion of a new survey of gay and bisexual men by the Kaiser Family Foundation released on Thursday. It found that 47 percent of the men have never discussed their sexual orientation with their doctors, and 56 percent have never been advised by a doctor to be tested for H.I.V.
For decades we’ve been hearing that H.I.V. is not a gay disease, and that’s true globally, but it’s a misrepresentation of the epidemic in the United States. That misunderstanding can lead to a complacency that furthers its spread, public health officials warn. A majority of new infections occur among men who have sex with men. Kaiser estimates that 12 to 13 percent of gay and bisexual men in the United States are living with H.I.V., more than 20 times the rate among the general population.
“It’s in the highest bracket of prevalence that you see in some of the hardest-hit countries in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Jen Kates, Kaiser’s director of global health and H.I.V. policy. “It’s not that America shouldn’t care about H.I.V., but that gay and bisexual men should care more.”
Continue reading on the New York Times online.
From Edge on the Net…
A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis shows that while most primary care physicians offer regular, routine HIV testing to gay and bisexual men, only 1 in 5 provides routine screening for all patients.
“Testing remains an important HIV prevention tool. It is the first step toward ensuring that those living with HIV get the treatment and care they need to protect their health and reduce their likelihood of transmission. Yet the majority of Americans have never been tested, and nearly 1 in 6 people who are HIV-infected do not know it,” writes the CDC in their analysis.
The CDC recommends that everyone be tested at least once — and for gay men, at least once a year — to ensure those living with HIV get the care and treatment they need to protect their health and reduce the likelihood of transmission.