HRC Calls For New Commitment To HIV/AIDS Prevention In Response To New CDC Report

On August 23rd, The Human Rights Campaign called for increased prevention
efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS as the Centers for Disease Control
released a new study showing that up to 93 percent of young HIV-positive
black gay men are unaware of their infection. Nearly three quarters, or 71
percent, of those men who were found to be HIV-positive believed that there
was either no chance, that it was very unlikely, or that it was unlikely
that they were infected with HIV.

"The new numbers released by the CDC this week are very alarming,
and reflect a very dangerous trend in the fight against HIV/AIDS," said HRC
Senior Policy Advocate Christopher Labonte. "Clearly, this study is another
signal to Congress and the administration as they return from recess that it
is time to put forth the necessary resources for scientifically proven
methods of HIV/AIDS prevention programs, such as those within the Minority
HIV/AIDS Initiative. With no cure, the only effective way we have to fight
this epidemic is prevention."

Created in 1999, the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative (MHAI) provides
funds throughout various federal HIV/AIDS programs to community-based
organizations and other entities to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic within
minority populations. It currently receives $381 million in funding.
The new study is consistent with other recent studies indicating that in
several U.S. cities, the majority of young HIV/AIDS-infected gay men are
unaware of their infection. The new numbers also showed that 37 percent of
the men surveyed reported having unprotected anal sex in the previous six
months.

"Young black gay men are not getting the prevention education that
they need," said HRC Field Constituency Organizer Donna Payne, who
specializes in minority outreach. "Without targeted prevention efforts, this
situation will continue to deteriorate. There are countless lives at risk
every day."

HIV/AIDS is disproportionately affecting communities of color. In
1999, approximately two-thirds of all women and more than 40 percent of all
men diagnosed with AIDS were black. Researchers in a separate study
recently found that nearly one-third of young gay black men in six major
U.S. cities are infected with HIV.

In its strategic plan, the CDC recognizes that homophobia adversely
impacts prevention efforts. Consequently, it identifies the need to develop
and implement HIV-prevention programs for gay and bisexual men, particularly
within communities of color.

"Although some progress has been made in developing treatments,
funding for HIV-prevention programs has historically been well below the
projected need," Labonte said. "Increasing funding and efforts to ensure
effective prevention programs – especially those focused on gay youth and
gay men of color – should be a top priority for our elected officials."

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