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Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Valleroy
"If 100 young black men were clear at the start of the year, 15 would of them would be infected 12 months later"
 real 28k

Ronald Jonson of Gay Men's Health Crisis
"This study should set off alarm bells"
 real 28k

Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK
HIV leaps among young gay Americans
Graphic depiction of the Aids virus
Aids has killed almost 450,000 Americans
Young gay and bisexual men in the United States, especially those who are black, are becoming infected with HIV at rates similar to those seen when the Aids epidemic peaked in the mid-1980s, according to a new study.

The report's staggering figures reveal that one-third of all black gay and bisexual male Americans under the age of 30 are HIV positive, and that infection rates have climbed sharply.


Infection rates are comparable with those of sub-Saharan Africa, the continent worst hit by Aids

The study was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the 20th anniversary of the discovery of the disease Aids, which is caused by HIV .

Scientists tracked almost 3,000 young bisexual and gay men in six US cities for two years.

Explosive rates

Every year the number infected with HIV grew by 4.4%.

"These are explosive HIV incidence rates," said Dr Linda Valleroy, the CDC epidemiologist who led the study.

The CDC admitted that its small sample might not be representative for all gay men, but it described the study's findings as a "critical" public health matter.

Aids has killed nearly 21 million people around the world, including about 450,000 Americans since the virus's discovery in 1981.

Racial disparity

But the overall infection rates masked an enormous racial disparity.

For white members of the group, growth in the infection rate was 2.5%, for black Americans, almost 15%, or one in seven.

Researchers noted that these infection rates were comparable with those of sub-Saharan Africa, the continent worst hit by Aids.


It's very scary. This is a new generation of people who should know better, but don't

Marty Algaze
Gay Men's Health Crisis
The study's scientists blamed the rise in infection rates on poorly targeted education, growing complacency and the continued stigma attached to Aids patients.

Aids prevention groups stressed the need for new ways to reach young adults at risk.

Ignorant generation

"These are young people who didn't see their friends dying, didn't lose lovers and friends and people who were important to them," said Marty Algaze, a spokesman for Gay Men's Health Crisis.

"It's very scary. This is a new generation of people who should know better, but don't."

"People don't perceive that you get infected and you die in two months any more," said Phill Wilson, executive director of the African-American Aids Policy and Training Institute at the University of Southern California.

Stigma

Some activists suggest that the stigma - both for being gay and being HIV positive - is worse for black men.

Researchers suggest the fact that infected black Americans are less likely to tell their partners about their status may be one reason for their vastly higher rates of infection.

"Whether you look at this country or throughout the world, this disease is becoming concentrated in marginalised populations," US Surgeon-General David Satchel said at a press conference in Washington.

Mr Satcher, who described the anniversary as a "solemn milestone", added that there was a desperate need to find an Aids vaccine.

Development of a vaccine, however, is years away and unlikely to be of help to the millions around the world already infected by the virus.

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See also:

10 Apr 01 | Americas
Bush appoints gay Aids adviser
16 Mar 99 | Aids
Crying cure for Aids?
09 Feb 99 | Aids
US approves Aids vaccine trial
28 Feb 99 | Aids
Aids threat to US blacks
02 Jul 99 | Aids
What is Aids?
08 Jul 99 | Aids
Global race to curb Aids
24 Oct 00 | Aids
Aids drugs factfile
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