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HIV: Is It Still Preventable?
by James Scott, Youth Pride Center

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HIV is a disease that is wreaking seemingly uncontrollable havoc on the African-American community, specifically the demographic of young MSM ( men who have sex with men ) . In 2009 African-American MSM accounted for 73% of new infections of all African-American men. Keep in mind that MSM includes men who may not identify as homosexual or bisexual, but engage in some form of sexual activity with other men.

While the number of African-American MSM represents a vast majority within the total number of African-American men with HIV, they only represent a third of all MSM. In the year 2006 MSM accounted for 53% of all new HIV cases in the United States. Of those 53% white MSM accounted for 43% of all new HIV cases, with the 30-39 age groups making up most of that percentage. African-Americans accounted for 52% of the new MSM HIV cases in 2006 with the largest group consisting of 13-29 year olds. I think it would be very interesting to analyze why those two demographics are the largest within their own race, as well as why the age varies according to race.

Asking is HIV still preventable almost seems like a sarcastic rhetorical question. The simple answer to this is YES, as HIV is not something you can pick up off the streets … well not literally. If everyone used a condom every time they engaged in sexual intercourse it would greatly affect the number of people infected with HIV each year. Condoms are not an absolute solution, but it definitely would prevent many people from becoming a new case. The other ways in which HIV is spread is fewer and less risky behavior than vaginal and anal sex, therefore the number of people contracting the disease would take a huge dive if everyone wore a condom during sex.

The most common reason people don't use condoms during sex is because it doesn't feel as good—the solution to that is to get yourself tested regularly. Knowing your status places you in a position to not only protect yourself but others. If you find out you are positive for HIV that doesn't mean you can't have sex, but you know you need to wear a condom when engaging in intercourse to prevent spreading the disease. If you and your partner are both negative it is deemed safe to not use a condom, but there are still other diseases that can be contracted when not using a condom, and even if you get tested and don't have any other diseases it still comes down to how well do you know your partner and do you trust them—even then it might be better to wear a condom as it is "better to be safe than sorry." ( There are also potential complications of getting a drug-resistant strain of HIV. )

The reasons why the gay and bisexual community in the U.S. continue to have the highest rate of new cases are an entirely different issue. Answers to that can range from an already condemned perception of one's self to having the same promiscuous tendencies as anyone else, both homosexual and heterosexual. At the end of the day the answer is the same for everyone, and I know we've heard it time and time again, WEAR A CONDOM and KNOW YOUR STATUS; this would prevent thousands of new cases and all but put an end to the HIV epidemic. I challenge myself and you to just take a minute to think as to why it could all be so simple—but we'd rather make it hard.

YPS is at 773-YPS-8051.

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