Studies show HIV infection rates still rising among gay men (MSM)

From left-leaning Time magazine.


As the world’s leading AIDS researchers gather for the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., scientists report that despite gains in controlling the spread of HIV, the disease has continued to spread at an alarming rate in the very population in which it first appeared — gay men.

In a series of papers in the Lancet dedicated to the dynamics of HIV among gay men — a group epidemiologists define as men who have sex with men (MSM) — scientists say that the continued burden of AIDS in this group is due to a combination of lifestyle and biological factors that put these men at higher risk. Rates are rising in all countries around the world.

In one study, led by Chris Beyrer, of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers analyzed surveillance reports and studies of HIV among MSM, including data that were part of routine United Nations reporting from member nations. Rates of HIV among gay men ranged from 3% in the Middle East to 25% in the Caribbean. In all reporting nations, rates were on the rise, even in developed nations like the U.S., Australia and the U.K. where HIV is declining overall.

In fact, says Beyrer, income does not seem to matter when it comes to HIV trends among MSM. In the U.S., for example, infection rates among gay men have been increasing by 8% each year since 2001, contributing to a 15% prevalence rate and putting the U.S. on par with countries like Thailand, Malaysia and some African and Caribbean nations where neither awareness of HIV/AIDS nor drug treatments are as widespread. HIV prevalence rates among MSM in Brazil, Canada, Italy and India range between 11% and 15%, while many western European countries have lower rates of around 6%.

[…]HIV has always been more common among gay men, but Beyrer and his colleagues say the traditional risk factors may not entirely explain the surge in many cases. Traditionally, HIV experts have pointed to high-risk behaviors such as unprotected sex, having multiple partners, injection drug use and drug use in general for making gay men more vulnerable to infection. But there may be biological reasons for the enhanced risk as well. For example, there is an 18 times greater risk of HIV transmission through anal sex than through vaginal sex, which may explain why the virus continues to thrive in gay men, despite the fact that they still receive the bulk of HIV awareness and treatment public-health messages.

I took a look at one of the research papers mentioned on PLOS Medicine and it looks pretty solid. That’s peer-reviewed literature, and Johns Hopkins is a good school for medicine. My impression of this research is that we should not be encouraging anyone to get into this lifestyle. We should not be subsidizing it. We should not be celebrating it. It’s not good for the gay men themselves that we continue to push this lifestyle onto them as normal. We wouldn’t push cigarette smoking onto people, whether there are biological factors that predispose them to it or not. I would not want to be responsible for encouraging anyone to prefer harmful behaviors. The article makes it clear that the problem isn’t “acceptance of gays” or reducing “bullying”. The problem is the promiscuity of the lifestyle itself, as well as the mechanics of anal sex. This problem cannot be solved by persuading everyone that the gay lifestyle is normal and praiseworthy. It’s a problem rooted in reality, not in people’s opinions. And we are all paying for this HIV research and HIV treatment at a time when we as a society cannot afford to be voluntarily incurring the costs of one group’s risky choices.

4 thoughts on “Studies show HIV infection rates still rising among gay men (MSM)”

  1. One could agree with everything in your article up to the last sentence, but the last sentence still wouldn’t follow.

    And we are all paying for this HIV research and HIV treatment at a time when we as a society cannot afford to be voluntarily incurring the costs of one group’s risky choices.

    Since I am sure you are aware that people besides gay men have HIV, I wonder what that sentence means for them. Are you proposing that we defund all HIV research, despite the fact that it benefits others besides gay men? Are you proposing that we defund all HIV treatment or just HIV treatment for gay men?


  2. Absolutely. This, like pregnancy, is an entirely preventable situation. There is no need for tax dollars to be spent on either the prevention of STDs or so-called contraceptives, “family planning” (read: abortion) and other such things. This of course, does not equate to outlawing private donations for these issues. But to take from responsible people to care for the irresponsible is…irresponsible, to say the least.


  3. In South Africa, HIV/Aids cases amongst homosexuals is barely on the public radar, although I know there are a number of them. Most HIV/Aids cases here are amongst heterosexuals. Tribal sexual mores have completely broken down (as you may be aware, thanks to the sexual antics of our President, which would have resulted at least in his resignation in a more moral country). There is a myth that having lots of sex and lots of babies, especially boys, means a man is “strong”, and there tends to be a culture of entitlement regarding women, hence our high rape statistics. A number of the infected are the innocent victims of the licentious – rape victims, faithful partners, mostly women, and any babies born to them. Some 30+% of women having babies at government hospitals are HIV+. The official government solution all along has been to distribute condoms, which are spurned by many males, and only in recent years have ARVs been supplied to people with HIV. Condom distribution and legalised abortion-on-demand has had little impact, although recently I saw something about the HIV infection rate having dropped or at least stabilised somewhat.
    We have a major problem of Aids orphans whose parents have died, resulting in “gogos” (grannies) finding themselves having to care for a brood of grand-children from their now dead off-spring. Otherwise, there are child-headed households, or children may be taken in by relatives (who often abuse them), as well as children’s homes and community-based care initiatives, many of them Christian.
    A fair chunk of the public fiscus goes on HIV/Aids related measures – Aids “education” (Health Dept and “loveLife”, a local Planned Parenthood offshoot that preaches a very compromised message to children), condom distribution and deficient health care at clinics and hospitals (i.e. what doesn’t get siphoned off by corrupt officials). There are also some big external donors, like Bill and Melinda Gates, and I think the Global Fund – I know the latter used to be a donor.
    The whole situation is very tragic, and if one mentions abstinence and keeping sex for marriage, as I did for many years, one is denounced as moralistic and judgmental.


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