A new report out of New York City reveals a disturbing trend among men under 30 fueled by several factors – an optimism that AIDS is readily treatable, high rates of drug use, and a stigmatization young men feel about disclosing their HIV status.
“The number of new H.I.V. infections in men under 30 who have sex with men has increased sharply in New York City in the last five years, particularly among blacks and Hispanics, even as AIDS deaths and overall H.I.V. infection rates in the city have steadily declined. New figures from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene show that the annual number of new infections among black and Hispanic men who have sex with men rose 34 percent between 2001 and 2006, and rose for all men under 30 who have sex with men by 32 percent. At a time when the number of new cases among older gay men is dropping — by 22 percent in New York City during the same period — AIDS experts are bearing down on what they say is a worrisome and perplexing growth of H.I.V. infection among young men…”
There’s at least one very clear reason for the disparity between age groups and infection. Said NYC health commissioner, Thomas R. Frieden: “People who grew up watching their friends die of AIDS are a lot more careful than those who didn’t.”
There’s also a sense of inevitability, according to outreach worker Lynonell Edmonds, particularly among blacks and Hispanics, because that community has been so hard hit. Said Edmonds: “A lot of guys say, ‘I’m going to get it anyway. I call it, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ People are not asking — it’s like it’s an offensive question.”