On Wednesday the CDC finally released data it had long held internally that demonstrates an alarming increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases among young African-American men who have sex with men (MSM).
No one seems to know why it took more than a year for the data analysis to become public — the data itself is now three years old — or why it was released by email as a "slide set" with little fanfare or press attention.
What the analysis shows, however, should be cause for great alarm.
CDC HIV/AIDS Update: New Surveillance Slide Set on Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) reports that of the almost one million AIDS cases reported through 2005, 81 percent were in males.
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Perhaps the reason the Administration delayed the release of the data is because the majority of AIDS cases among men can be attributed to male-to-male contact (59 percent). In fact, from 2001 to 2005, the number of HIV/AIDS cases increased among adult and adolescent men who have sex with men (MSM) in all age groups. The largest proportional increase occurred among MSM ages 13-24, with young African American/black MSM in this age category suffering the largest increase — up almost 80 percent from 2001 to 2005!
Is homophobia fueling an irrational and dangerous response to a public health epidemic that has plagued us for more than 25 years? I wouldn't be surprised. After all this is the administration that has poured more than $1 billion into abstinence-only-until-marriage programs-programs that at their best ignore the existence of gay youth and at their worst demonize homosexuality.
Isn't it time we demanded a rational and more urgent public health response to an epidemic that has killed so many? Young men who have sex with men are becoming infected with HIV at an alarming rate. They need information. They need services. They have the right to respect and acceptance.
Until honest education and access to services become common, the lion's share of the blame for the increase in HIV/AIDS among young MSM will continue to rest squarely with the President who has championed failed abstinence-only programs, the legislators that have funded them, and all those who perpetuate or tolerate homophobia.