By Terrence Chappell
Last month, a new study conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco found that 100% of study participants taking the HIV prevention pill Truvada as a pre-exposure prohylaxis (PrEP) remained infection-free when engaging in sex with high-risk partners.
While the new study is a tremendous step in the right direction in the fight against HIV and AIDS, Black men who have sex with men (MSM) are still significantly over represented in new HIV infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), African Americans are the group that’s most affected by HIV, and the rate of new HIV infection is eight times higher for African Americans than Whites.
Advocate, an LGBT media outlet, reports that although gay men are 40 times more likely to contract HIV than the general population, that number launches to a whooping 72 times more likely among Black, gay men. If not treated properly, HIV can lead to AIDS. In 2013, of the estimated 14,611 gay and bisexual men diagnosed with AIDS, 40% were Blacks/African Americans; 32% were Whites, and 23% were Hispanic/Latinos according to the CDC.
Simply put, long-term PrEP needs to reach the community’s most at-risk people. Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ health services organizations, recognizes the gap for Black MSM.
“Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) is committed to providing PrEP access, navigation and counseling services to help HIV negative people stay negative,” said Kristin Keglovitz, Howard Brown’s Chief Operations Officer. “This is particularly true for Black men who have sex with men, a population that experiences disproportionate rates of HIV infection and barriers to access quality healthcare services.”
There’s no ONE reason why cases of HIV infection are skyrocketing among Black men who sleep with men. It’s a holistic mix of stigma, access, and lack of awareness that form the perfect storm.
Stigma doesn’t always have to be attributed to family and friends. Healthcare-related stigmas often lead to mistrust and medical visit gaps. The American Journal of Public Health published an article in its February 2015 issue titled: “The role of stigma and medical mistrust in the routine healthcare engagement of Black men who have sex with men.” The piece focused on a study that sampled 544 Black MSM attending a community event. Of the 544 participants, 29% reported experiencing racial or sexual orientation discrimination from their healthcare providers, and 48% reported an overall mistrust of medical establishments.