Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that nearly 70% of new cases of HIV occur in gay men, or men who have sex with men. Within this segment, HIV is most common among African Americans and bisexual men, followed by Hispanic and Caucasian men.
Some of the reasons why gay men have a higher risk for HIV include the following:
- Anal sex: Data indicate that anal sex carries the highest risk of acquiring HIV. In addition, anal sex is considered to be the easiest way of transmitting HIV infection to others. Since gay men are frequently involved in anal sex, their risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV is very high.
- Lack of protection: Despite awareness of the benefits of using a condom, many gay men do not use a condom during sex. While the reasons for the lack of condom use remain unknown, it has been proven that without the use of a condom, there is absolutely no protection against HIV.
- Lack of compliance with medications: Despite the benefits of antiretroviral medications, a large number of gay men do not remain compliant with the medications. In North America, for those who do not have private insurance to cover the cost of these medications, there are federal programs like Medicaid, the Health Center Program, and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which provide funding for these drugs at a very low cost. There should be no reason not to take the medications, especially when they have been shown to increase lifespan and prevent complications of HIV. However, compliance rates remain low and the risk of HIV remains high.
- Homophobia and discrimination: Despite a great deal of effort, attitudes toward gay men have not improved significantly over the past three decades. The stigma of being gay often discourages these individuals from seeking testing or treatment for HIV.