On average, the number of 13- to 29-year-old men who have sex with men (MSM) diagnosed with HIV increased by 3 percent annually between 2008 and 2016. Meanwhile, about 225,000 MSM living with diagnosed HIV—approaching a quarter of the total U.S. HIV population of about 1.1 million—are now at least 50 years old.
In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its revised estimates of HIV infection trends among MSM, stating that, overall, transmission rates remained essentially unchanged in this group (with considerable variability among races, however). An estimated 26,700 MSM contracted the virus in 2008, as did an estimated 26,200 in 2016.
Now the CDC has released hard data on HIV diagnoses—as opposed to estimates about new infections. Note that diagnosis figures are not necessarily precisely indicative of transmission trends, given uncertainty about the lag time between a person contracting the virus and receiving a diagnosis.
The CDC urges all sexually active MSM to get tested for HIV at least once per year and if they test positive to promptly engage in medical care for the virus and receive antiretroviral treatment so they can achieve full suppression of the virus.
Publishing their findings in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC researchers analyzed data on HIV diagnoses among MSM reported to the National HIV Surveillance System in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Between 2008 and 2016, 236,150 MSM were diagnosed with HIV, of whom 106,258 (45 percent) were 13 to 29 years old, 100,857 (43 percent) were 30 to 49 years old and 29,034 (12 percent) were 50 years old and older.
In the youngest age group, 49 percent of those diagnosed were Black, 25 percent were Latino and 19 percent were white. In the middle age group, 28 percent of diagnoses were among Blacks, 28 percent among Latinos and 37 percent among whites. And in the oldest age group 25 percent of those diagnosed were Black, 17 percent were Latino and 53 percent were white.
During this period, the annual number of diagnoses among 13- to 29-year-olds rose 2.9 percent each year on average, including an annual average increase of 2.8 percent among Blacks, 4.5 percent among Latinos and 1.5 percent among whites. Among 30- to 49-year-olds, the annual number of diagnoses declined 3.5 percent per year on average, including an annual average decrease of 3.6 percent among Blacks and 6.4 percent among whites, as well as an average annual increase of 0.6 percent among Latinos. Among those age 50 and older, the annual number of diagnoses remained stable, including an annual average decrease of 1.8 percent among Blacks, an annual average increase of 4.1 percent among Latinos and a stable figure among whites.
Between 2008 and 2015, the number of MSM living with diagnosed HIV increased 4.5 percent per year, including: a 7.7 percent average annual increase among those 13 to 29 years old, from 40,991 to 69,505; a 0.4 percent average annual decrease among those 30 to 49 years old, from 234,056 to 230,003; and a 10.8 percent average annual increase among those age 50 and older, from 108,544 to 223,210.
By 2015, in 12 jurisdictions, at least half of MSM living with diagnosed MSM were at least 50 years old.
Of the 10 states with the highest proportion of MSM living with diagnosed HIV in the 13- to 29-year-old age bracket, nine were in the South.
Of the four major regions of the country, the South experienced the steepest increases in HIV diagnoses during the study period.
The CDC’s report notes that the increase in annual diagnoses of HIV among younger MSM may be driven in part by increased testing.
To read the CDC report, click here.