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The New Face of the HIV Epidemic
GW participates in NIH study examining new HIV infections in gay and bisexual black men.
July 23, 2012
New HIV infections are occurring among young gay and bisexual black men in the U.S. at greatly elevated rates, according to a new study released today at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.
The NIH-funded HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) conducted the study in six large metropolitan cities across the country including the District. The George Washington University Clinical Research Site, located within GW’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS), implemented the study in Washington.
The national study, which is named HPTN 061, showed that the overall rate of new HIV infection among black men who have sex with men (MSM) in the U.S. was 2.8 percent per year – a rate that is nearly 50 percent higher than in white MSM. The non-randomized study also found that young black MSM – those under 30 years old – acquired HIV infection at a rate of 5.9 percent per year in the U.S., which is three times the rate among white MSM. This study is the first of its kind to determine the rate of new HIV infection (referred to as HIV incidence) among such a large prospective cohort of U.S. black MSM.
GW researchers recruited 227 men and followed them over a year to learn more about the life experiences and HIV risks among black MSM. MSM remains the leading mode of HIV transmission in the District of Columbia, with black MSM disproportionately affected. The findings from the study emphasize the urgency of ongoing research to improve HIV prevention interventions among this population.
Manya Magnus, an associate professor; Irene Kuo, an associate research professor; and Christopher Chauncey Watson, project director for HPTN studies and research associate, ran the study for GW.
“The data from this study underscore the urgency of the HIV epidemic among black MSM, particularly those who are young,” said Dr. Magnus. “We must leverage these findings to inform the development of new, culturally-appropriate and innovative approaches to HIV.”
GW is one of more than 50 locations across D.C. displaying sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt this week in honor of the XIX International AIDS Conference, which began Sunday and runs through Friday. Members of the GW community can see sections of the quilt hung in the Marvin Center’s Great Hall this week. The AIDS Memorial Quilt, which consists of more than 47,000 panels, is a global tribute to the 25 million lives lost to AIDS. On Tuesday at 7 p.m, Whitman-Walker Health will hold a town hall forum at Lisner Auditorium – the location of the first community meeting in D.C. regarding HIV/AIDS at the beginning of the epidemic. The “Return to Lisner Forum” will feature a panel of HIV/AIDS experts and a keynote address from Jeanne White-Ginder, mother of Ryan White, a teenager who became infected with HIV in 1984 after receiving a contaminated blood transfusion. The event is free and open to the public but registration is required.
Across the country, a total of 1,533 MSM were enrolled in Atlanta, Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and D.C. Of the study participants who reported themselves as HIV-negative or those who did not know their status at the beginning of the study, 12 percent tested HIV-positive yet were unaware of their status. All HIV-infected study participants were referred for HIV care and treatment services. During the study, all participants were offered the chance to work with peer health navigators to provide support and to assist them with access to needed services. In addition, they were provided with condoms, testing and referral for treatment of sexually transmitted infections, risk reduction counseling and other standard HIV prevention services during the course of the study.
“We have known that black MSM are affected by HIV at disproportionately higher rates when compared to other MSM in the U.S., but the HIV incidence rates [in this study] were extremely high,” said Darrell Wheeler, dean of the School of Social Work at Loyola University and the study’s co-chair. “They make it very clear that we must urgently find and implement ways to stem the spread of HIV among black gay men in this country, and critically among young black gay men.”
Further analysis of data from the study is ongoing to better understand how HIV risk among black MSM might be affected by childhood experiences, social and sexual networks, discrimination, homophobia, incarceration and barriers to health care. These findings will help inform future research and prevention efforts.
Just this month, Dr. Magnus, Dr. Kuo and Mr. Watson were also recently awarded a $435,875 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, which is part of NIH, to study structural barriers to HIV prevention service utilization among black MSM. This summer, the GW research team will also be launching another study to examine the safety and tolerability of several drugs to prevent HIV transmission in at-risk MSM. A third study, which will begin next year, will evaluate integrated interventions to optimize adherence of these preventative drugs among black MSM.