A data analysis released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscores the disproportionate impact of HIV and syphilis among gay and bisexual men in the United States.
The data, presented at CDC’s 2010 National STD Prevention Conference, finds that the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) is more than 44 times that of other men and more than 40 times that of women.
The range was 522-989 cases of new HIV diagnoses per 100,000 MSM vs. 12 per 100,000 other men and 13 per 100,000 women.
The rate of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM is more than 46 times that of other men and more than 71 times that of women, the analysis says. The range was 91-173 cases per 100,000 MSM vs. 2 per 100,000 other men and 1 per 100,000 women.
While CDC data have shown for several years that gay and bisexual men make up the majority of new HIV and new syphilis infections, CDC has estimated the rates of these diseases for the first time based on new estimates of the size of the U.S. population of MSM. Because disease rates account for differences in the size of populations being compared, rates provide a reliable method for assessing health disparities between populations.
In an effort to look at these figures from a purely scientific and public health perspective, let’s substitute smoking and cancer for homosexual sex and HIV. If the CDC released information which made a direct correlation between smoking and extremely high rates of getting cancer, people would take notice. The media would write about it. Public health organizations would make sure the news was spread. Campaigns would be launched to save lives by discouraging smoking. Public funds would be spent to deter people from engaging in such dangerous behavior. Schools would teach children about the dangers of smoking.
Of course, as we all know, that scenario is real. Because of the now-known dangers of smoking, a warning from the Surgeon General appears on every pack of cigarettes. Public service ads saturated the airwaves over a period of years discouraging smoking. The dangers of smoking are a standard part of most health classes in schools.
I really recommend that everyone who is concerned about this issue read Jeffrey Satinover’s “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth“, which talks about the health risks of certain behaviors. Dr. Jeffrey Satinover has practiced psychoanalysis and psychiatry for more than nineteen years. He is a former Fellow in Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and a past president of the C. G. Jung Foundations. He holds degrees from MIT, the University of Texas, the Harvard University. If you want to change your mind – and your will – on a topic, you study that topic by looking at the evidence from the experts in the field. Dr. Satinover’s book is compassionate and measured. It is a great place to start learning.
No one is trying to make anyone else feel bad by telling them the truth. On the contrary – by telling people the truth and by setting appropriate boundaries, we can protect others from harm. And that’s why everyone needs to be told the truth. We aren’t helping people by hiding numbers like these from them. Speak the truth in love, and let people decide for themselves.