With HIV, the Numbers Don’t Lie
Any individual can contract human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) regardless of race, sexual orientation, or location. However, some racial and ethnic groups have a higher risk. For example, almost 100,000 Texans are living with HIV. Over 70% of such cases are young men of color, particularly those from Black and Hispanic communities. In contrast, these groups underwent 44% fewer HIV tests in non-medical settings. This figure remains a significant issue that will only change with consistent testing and an understanding of what factors contribute to high HIV rates among men of color.
What’s behind the high numbers?
Human immunodeficiency virus continues to impact young men of color disproportionately. Since first discovering the virus, these groups have always had higher infection rates. A lack of information, education, and access to medical care has exacerbated the problem for several decades. The added stigma of the virus within these communities, again due to lack of information, has further isolated those needing HIV tests and treatment. Add further systematic issues and structural inequality, and HIV has devastated Black and Latinx communities nationwide.
MSM deepens the chasm
Looking closely, the data reveals that young men of color in the LGBTQ+ community have an even higher risk. Men who have sex with men (MSM), including gay, bisexual men, and transexual persons, account for 66% of new infections. Unprotected sex among men is the fastest and easiest way to contract the disease. Moreover, HIV disparities experienced by this group of men are worsened by social stigma and unequal access to medical care. This concerning statistic emphasizes the urgent requirement for extensive testing and prevention programs specifically targeted at young men of color.
The more you know, the better
Young men of color must understand the significance of getting tested for HIV. Knowing HIV status is essential for safeguarding health and protecting sexual partners. Upon receiving a positive test result, prompt medical attention and adherence to HIV treatment can significantly lower the viral load, making HIV undetectable for many years. Personal health and reduced transmission of HIV to others are both improved by maintaining an undetectable viral load.
Sexually active individuals ages 13-64 should get tested yearly. However, some risk factors may require more frequent testing. Young men of color who are sexually active should consider getting tested every 3-6 months. Testing is crucial for MSM or those with multiple partners. Young men known to have HIV or people in serodiscordant relationships must also prioritize testing. Additionally, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can reduce the chances of infection.
Prevention and protection matter
Young men of color have an elevated risk of infection. The risk increases further in MSM and LGBTQ+ groups. Consistent and affordable testing is critical for preventing transmission and staying healthy. Additionally, some programs help with education and safe sex practices.
This information must also spread to other groups to reduce stigma and discrimination so at-risk men can get help safely. Ending the HIV epidemic can become a reality by giving the necessary groups much-deserved attention, access to testing, and resources.