CROI 2014A staggering 12 percent of young gay black men in Atlanta are contracting HIV each year, an incidence rate exceeding that of almost all other previously recorded figures in the world's wealthier nations, aidsmap reports. At this rate, a sexually active black man who becomes sexually active at age 18 has a 60 percent chance of becoming HIV positive by the time he hits 30. Researchers presented these troubling findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston.

Researchers at Atlanta's Emory School of Public Health uncovered this statistic in their InvolveMENt study, which was a longitudinal cohort study of black and white HIV-negative men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 18 and 39. Of the 803 men initially recruited, 56 percent were black and the rest were white. Forty-four percent of the black men were HIV positive, compared with 13 percent of the whites.

The study then followed 260 black and 302 white HIV-negative men for up to two years. Seventy-nine percent remained in the study through the follow-up, providing 832 person years of data.

The black men were 3.8 times more likely than the whites to acquire the virus. Ignoring the race of the man becoming infected, those who had black sexual partners were 4.5 times more likely to acquire the virus than those who did not. Unprotected sex raised the risk of becoming HIV positive by a factor of 4.8. Those who had partners at least a decade older were 2.8-times as likely to contract the virus.

The researchers found that black men were 2.9-times as likely to become HIV positive as whites. Echoing the findings of many previous studies, the blacks reported less unprotected sex than the whites. “Sexual networks” appeared to be the strongest factor increasing risk for black men: African-American MSM have been found to be much more likely to have sex with members of their own race than MSM of other races. A lack of health insurance was also linked to increased risk.

To read the aidsmap story, click here.

To view a webcast of the CROI presentation, click here.