HIV infection data by race focuses crisis in L.A. County

BY TROY MASTERS  |  The number of new HIV cases nationwide has remained stable in recent years at around 30,000 annually, yet men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to account for the vast majority of cases.  This disparity is particularly acute among young African American gay and bisexual men.  Although African Americans as a whole represent only 12% of the U.S. population, they represent 44% (in 2010) of all new HIV infections and 41% of all people living with HIV (in 2011), according aids.gov.

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Los Angeles County’s statistics mirror those numbers. While African Americans represent only 9.2 percent of the total population in L.A. they accounted for a disproportionate 22% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2012. 87%, of those diagnoses were among men who identify as gay, bisexual, or as men who have sex with men (MSM). These numbers remain largely unchanged, according to the past 5 years of available data provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

GRAPHICHIV

While Latinos represent 48.4 percent of the total population of LA County, they account for 48% of new cases in 2012. The vast majority of these cases, more than 85 percent, are among men who have sex with men.

According to the National Institutes of Health, on a national level Latino MSM test positive for HIV at a rate of nearly 5 percent, while African American MSM test positive at an approximate  rate of  6 percent.  The rate among white MSM is 3 percent.

Against this backdrop, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the UCLA Vine Street Clinic partnered in 2014 to conduct a groundbreaking five-year study called the mSTUDY, funded by a $7 million grant to UCLA from the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health. The study will investigate how drug use affects the immune system of HIV+ & HIV- minority male-identified men who have sex with men (MSM).

Half of the participants sought for the study will be non-opiate substance users. Substance use, especially use of stimulants like crystal methamphetamine, crack, cocaine, and alcohol, are common factors among those newly infected with HIV. The primary aim of this project is to investigate if and how non-injection drug use affects the likelihood of becoming infected with HIV, and if already HIV-positive, its effects on the progression of the virus.

Prospective HIV positive study participants can contact the Center for more information at 323-993-8912 ormstudy@lalgbtcenter.org.

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