This Sunday is the 27th annual AIDS Walk and 5K Run. No one around at the start of this epidemic ever thought we’d still be battling new infections—without a cure—30 years later.
And yet we are.
The people most vulnerable to AIDS 30 years ago are those most vulnerable today: gay and bisexual men, people of color, injection drug users, and transgender women. Gay and bi men are 44 times more likely than anyone else to contract HIV, according to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). AIDS is the third leading cause of death for black men and women age 35 to 44. Between 2006 and 2009, the most recent for which statistics are available, young black gay and bisexual men were the only risk group in the US to experience statistically significant increases in new HIV infections. And more than 25 percent of transgender women are HIV positive.
Despite the fact that we’ve still got a crisis on our hands, both the state and federal government have been busy cutting funding for HIV education, outreach, and prevention. Last fall, the CDC slashed $4.3 million (or 25 percent) from the state’s HIV/AIDS prevention budget. Just about a decade ago, the state spent $52 million on HIV/AIDS prevention, education, and outreach. Today it spends about $32 million.
The crazy thing is that we know how to do the outreach, education, and prevention that cuts down on HIV transmission. We know how to provide the sophisticated social supports necessary to help those living with HIV stay healthy. New HIV infections have been reduced in Massachusetts by 54 percent since 1999. That’s going to save the state more than $2 billion in health care costs.
One of the main contributors to the state’s success in reducing new HIV infections and improving health outcomes for those living with HIV has been the work of the AIDS Action Committee. It is one of the country’s oldest AIDS service organizations and it has built a sophisticated model of support that ensures that those living with HIV are able to stabilize their lives so they can take care of their health.
AIDS Action has been hit hard by these budget cuts. And in the last year it’s been attacked by sex-obsessed right-wing politicians for its Maria Talks website, which provides sexuality education for young people. This organization not only needs our support, it deserves it.
This year’s AIDS Walk Boston and 5K Run takes place this Sunday, June 3. You can participate by going to the DCR Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston. Registration and check-in begins at 7:30 a.m.; the Walk begins at 10 a.m. Or simply make an online donation.
The State of HIV/AIDS
Since 1999, Massachusetts reduced new HIV diagnoses by 54% which will results in more than $2 billion in health care costs savings.
An estimated 23,000 to 25,000 people are living with an HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts, and approximately 5,000 to 10,000 are unaware that they are HIV positive.
Among individuals recently diagnosed with HIV infection, male-to-male sex is the leading reported exposure mode, accounting for about four out of ten new diagnoses in Massachusetts.
Blacks make up only 6% of the state’s population, but they comprise 29% of those living with HIV/AIDS in MA and are impacted by HIV at 10 times the rate that white people are.
Hispanics make up only 8% of the state’s population, but they comprise 25% of those living with HIV/AIDS in MA and are impacted by HIV at 8 times the rate that white people are.
Approximately 14 percent of people living with HIV are also co-infected with Hepatitis C, which is a form of viral hepatitis, which causes inflammation of the liver and can lead to cirrhosis and increased risk of liver cancer
There are an estimated 100,000 people living with viral hepatitis in Massachusetts today with between 7,000 to 10,000 new diagnoses annually
Gay and bisexual men nationally are more than 44 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the general population.
Gay and bisexual men make up just 2% of the US population, but accounted for 61% of all new HIV infections in 2009.
White gay and bisexual men accounted for the largest number of new HIV infections of any group in the US in 2009, followed closely by black gay and bisexual men.
Young, black gay and bisexual men were the only risk group in the US to experience statistically significant increases in new HIV infections from 2006–2009.
Between 2006 and 2009, the number of new infections that occur each year increased among young gay and bisexual men — driven by an alarming 48 percent increase among young, black gay and bisexual teens and adults age 13 to 29 years old.
More than one-quarter (28%) of transgender women are HIV positive.
More than half (53.4%) of all newly reported HIV/AIDS cases in the US occurred among persons in their twenties (29.0%) or thirties (24.4%).
Young people between the ages of 20 to 24 accounted for the highest percentage of new HIV diagnoses (14.8%) in the country.