JAMA Reports HIV Spike Among Gay Men; AHF Says Routine Testing, Effective Prevention Needed

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 General News
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LOS ANGELES, Nov. 27 AIDS Healthcare Foundation(AHF), today expressed alarm over a Journal of the American MedicalAssociation (JAMA) article that reported a startling 13% increase in HIV/AIDScases among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United States over the pastfour years. The article prompted AHF to renew its call for effective andsustained prevention efforts and a fast tracking of routine HIV testingnationwide. The JAMA article, which examines the upward trend among MSM inWestern countries with a focus on the United States, attributes the uptick ininfection rates to a rise in unsafe sex due to, among other factors, reducedfear over the disease's potentially deadly consequences, lack of awareness ofHIV status and substance abuse issues, particularly the use ofmethamphetamines and alcohol.

According to The Reemerging HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Men Who Have Sex With Menby Drs. Harold W. Jaffe, Ronald O. Valdiserri and Kevin M. De Cock (JAMA,November 28, 2007-Vol. 298, No.20): "A venue-based study of more than 5000 MSMaged 15 to 29 years in 6 U.S. cities found that 10% of the men were infectedwith HIV; of these men, 77% were unaware of their infection (91% of black MSMwith infection were unaware of being infected). Of men reporting that theirlast HIV test result was negative, 8% were found to be infected (21% of blackMSM reporting a negative test result were found to be infected). Almost 60%of men who were unaware of their infection considered themselves to be at lowrisk for HIV infection."

"Despite the fact that we have effective medications today to keep peoplealive and well and their HIV disease under control, I am alarmed and saddenedby this latest report because HIV, while treatable, is not curable andrequires lifelong care," said Dr. Homayoon Khanlou, Chief of Medicine for AIDSHealthcare Foundation. "More than a quarter of a million people in the U.S.still do not know they are HIV-positive: they simply haven't accessed testingor treatment opportunities. HIV is a preventable disease, and I urge everybodyto get tested and know their HIV status."

"I hope this report serves as a wake up call and as a catalyst to fast-track an overhaul of the HIV testing process nationwide," said WhitneyEngeran, III, Director, Public Health Division for AIDS Healthcare Foundation."Sustained and focused prevention efforts and effective risk-reductioninitiatives must be scaled up across the country if we are going to reversethis trend in infections. Better leadership is required at all levels:federal, state, local and within communities themselves. The efforts shouldnot only be made when the spotlight is on, such as after a report like thisone. We need a sustained, unified commitment that doesn't flag when thenumbers begin to decrease."

The JAMA article cited the need for social marketing campaigns thatemphasize personal responsibility, and cited the recent nationwide "HIV Stopswith Me" campaign.

A post-campaign survey of AIDS Healthcare Foundation's own most recentprevention initiative, the innovative "Stay Negative" social marketingcampaign, demonstrated the campaign's remarkable success in reaching itstarget audience and achieving its objective to create an effective healtheducation and risk reduction campaign to raise awareness among gay males inLos Angeles County that HIV infection is still a serious threat.

Among the results of the "Stay Negative" campaign, created by FraserCommunications, and funded in part by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control andPrevention (CDC) and the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health,Office of AIDS Programs and Policy is the fact that it achieved high resonanceand appeal among a broad audience, most notably across ethnic boundaries, with8 in 10 African Americans and Latinos reporting that they related to theadvertisements. Most importantly, the ads proved motivating, increasinglevels o

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