In the years we have been writing about National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, there has often been good news tempered by bad news. This year is no different. As we work to raise awareness and spur action on this National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we have evidence that our efforts in HIV testing are paying off, but we also have evidence that we need to do more to support the overall health of gay and bisexual men living with HIV.
Last week, CDC reported an increasing percentage of gay and bisexual men who have had a negative HIV test during the 12 months before being diagnosed with HIV (48% in 2007 and 56% in 2013 among those with a known previous negative HIV test). These findings suggest a trend toward increased HIV testing and earlier HIV diagnosis among persons most at risk for HIV—a positive outcome from focused HIV testing.
In a second report, researchers found that some gay and bisexual men in HIV medical care, especially young non-Hispanic black and Hispanic/Latino MSM, are not receiving the ancillary services they need to improve their health overall and help them achieve and maintain viral suppression. Ancillary services are those that support retention in HIV medical care and assist with day-to-day living, such as non-HIV medical care, peer group support, food and nutrition support, transportation assistance, and shelter or housing services. Lack of awareness of available services or insufficient resources for obtaining them were listed as barriers to these important services. Meeting the needs of young black and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men who reported substantial unmet needs for ancillary services could help address the age and racial/ethnic disparities in HIV diagnoses and HIV-related health outcomes.
The control of HIV is an ongoing process, one that starts with HIV testing, continues through diagnosis and linkage to care, and ends with viral suppression, a state that allows for the best possible health of the individual living with HIV and greatly reduces the risk of transmission. CDC will continue to emphasize testing as an essential tool to help individuals monitor their HIV status and enable those who have HIV to learn of their infection and begin treatment, but we also need to promote access to ancillary services and programs. This will help ensure people with HIV get the care they need and live long, healthy lives.
As we commemorate this National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we recognize that no one organization can meet all the needs of individuals living with HIV. Working together, will help to ensure that all gay and bisexual men receive regular HIV testing, prevention services like PrEP if needed, and support to achieve and maintain healthy lives.