CDC rolls out ‘Strength Through Affirmation’

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When the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released its latest estimates of HIV infection earlier this month, it made unexpected headlines with a startling finding: 30 years into the epidemic, researchers have found a burgeoning epidemic among young black gay and bisexual men. This week, at the agency’s massive annual convening of HIV prevention scientists and experts, federal health officials rolled out a rare national campaign targeting black gay men.

According to the CDC, new infections among black gay and bisexual men under 30 years old shot up by 48 percent in recent years, rising from an estimated new 4,500 infections in 2006 to an estimated 6,500 in 2009. The findings—which also confirmed the U.S. continues to log 50,000 new cases a year overall, roughly half of which are among African Americans—prompted many to ask the perennial question: Why is this happening and what can be done about it?

The CDC has pointed to several factors, including limited access to both HIV testing and sexual health education, stigma surrounding HIV and homosexuality that has gone unchallenged in communities of color and a higher incidence rate of other sexual transmitted illnesses, which have been show to facilitate transmission of HIV.

Richard Wolitski, a deputy director in the CDC’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Division, spoke with about the Testing Makes Us Stronger campaign and the CDC’s concern over the increase in HIV infection rates among black gay and bisexual men.

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