HIV Prevalence Predictions in Gay, Bi Men 'Staggering'

By Todd Heywood

LANSING -

If current infection trends continue unabated, the federal government estimates that today's 20-year-old men who have sex with men will face a 50 percent infection rate in 30 years - 70 percent for black men who have sex. Those numbers double the highest prevalence estimates during the height of the epidemic in the late 80s and early 90s experts say.

The government also says that the current cohort of 20 year old men who have sex with men has an overall prevalence today of 10 percent, while black men who have sex with men have a 20 percent prevalence.

The predictions were presented in a session at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's annual Creating Change Conference held in January in Atlanta. Greg Millett, an employee of the CDC assigned to the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House, presented the numbers to a gathering of about 40 people, mostly from AIDS service organizations, during a three hour session on HIV in the men who have sex with men behavioral category.

Michigan AIDS advocates and LGBT leaders call the predictions "staggering" and "unconscionable."

The Michigan Department of Community Health, however, says it has known about the predictions in one form or another since 2009, but did not share those numbers with AIDS groups or LGBT organizations.

"While MDCH has not directly shared this study with ASOs and LGBT leaders and organizations, we have used this information and the numbers to shape and prioritize our priorities, for community conversations, and to inform our community partners as has been evident by the agencies and the initiatives that are funded by MDCH that ASOs and LGBT organizations are providing in the respective jurisdictions to focus and target the LGBT community," said Angela Minicucci in an email.

She said the department does not share studies with the community when they are "made public by the institution publishing them."

Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of KICK which is an African American LGBT community agency in Detroit, said the numbers were troubling, but that the MDCH's failure to disclose them widely was an issue as well.

"I can't understand why it would be private particularly to those who provide services" Lipscomb said. "The more the information is withheld from people we provide services to the more people die. We know that when there is a lack of knowledge we parish."

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