Whites now minority of gay men with AIDS in U.S.
By Mike Cooper
ATLANTA, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Blacks and Hispanics accounted for more than half of the AIDS cases diagnosed among gay and bisexual men in the United States in 1998, as white men accounted for a declining share of those with the disease, federal health officials said on Thursday.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that in 1998, 33 percent of new AIDS cases among homosexual or bisexual men were among blacks and 18 percent were among Hispanics. White men accounted for 48 percent of the cases.
``The rate of AIDS cases among African-American men who have sex with men is now almost five times higher than that among their white counterparts and the rate among Latino men is twice as high as among white men,'' said Dr. Helene Gayle, director of the CDC's National Centre for HIV, STD and TB Prevention.
The CDC said the disparities may be due to the stigma associated with homosexuality, which discourages men of colour from seeking AIDS prevention or treatment, and to a lack of prevention programmes targeting gay blacks and Hispanics.
``In 1989, men of colour represented only 31 percent of gay and bisexual men with AIDS. That proportion has increased to 52 percent by 1998, our last full year of AIDS reporting,'' Gayle said. That figure includes Native Americans and Asia-Pacific islanders.
``Fear continues to drive far too many young black and Latino men with AIDS to die alone, rather than face the risk of being shunned by family and friends,'' Gayle said.
A CDC-sponsored survey of 8,780 HIV-infected men having sex with men found that 24 percent of the blacks and 15 percent of the Hispanics called themselves heterosexual, compared with 6 percent of white men.
Phil Wilson, director of the African-American Policy and Training Institute at the University of California, San Francisco, said AIDS prevention efforts need to target gay men of colour.
``It is not sufficient to simply do gay programmes that are run predominantly by white gay men and expect those programmes to be able to adequately reach black gay and bisexual men,'' Wilson said.
Black and Hispanic gay men are also being infected with HIV at a younger age than whites, researchers said.
Based on data from 25 states that report HIV infection figures, the CDC said 16 percent of blacks and 13 percent of Hispanics diagnosed as infected between 1996 and 1998 were aged 13 to 24, compared with 9 percent of white men.
Dr. Rafael Campo, a physician who treats AIDS patients at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, called the increase in AIDS cases among young Hispanics ``alarming for all Americans.''
``The unchecked spread of AIDS in our youngest and fastest- growing minority communities means that American society as a whole and the great promise of our future may soon be terribly blighted,'' Campo said.
AIDS cases and AIDS deaths among gay and bisexual men dropped between 1996 and 1998, but the declines were smaller among men of colour, the CDC said.
Newly reported AIDS cases among gay and bisexual men declined 39 percent among whites between 1996 and 1998, but only 26 percent among Hispanics and 23 percent among blacks.
Deaths of gay and bisexual men due to AIDS fell 65 percent among whites during the same period, but declined only 60 percent among Hispanics and 53 percent among blacks.
The CDC said 85 percent of the gay and bisexual men of colour diagnosed with AIDS lived in cities with populations over 500,000.