Event addresses epidemic of HIV among African-American men who have sex with men

Published: September 21, 2011

CINCINNATI (FOX19) – Local health officials say there is a growing epidemic of new HIV infections in Cincinnati in a subgroup that few target for anti-HIV messaging: young, African-American men who have sex with men (MSMs).

To educate the community about the trend and discuss risk reduction and health improvement, members of the Cincinnati Regional Advisory Group (CRAG) will host “Responding to the Crisis: Black MSM and HIV in Cincinnati,” a community forum on Monday, Sept. 26, from 6-8 p.m. at American Red Cross, 2111 Dana Avenue.

The CRAG, a collaborative group of publicly funded agencies who provide HIV prevention services locally, includes the Cincinnati Health Department, Central Community Health Board, Planned Parenthood, IV-CHARIS and the University of Cincinnati Department Of Emergency Medicine.

“We’re seeing more and more young people in the emergency department with HIV,” said Andrew Ruffner, director of UC’s Early Intervention Program (EIP), an HIV testing and prevention program at the UC Health University Hospital Emergency Department. “This population—young, African-American MSMs—is becoming the most dominant demographic group for new HIV infections.”

Ruffner estimates members of this group account for one in five infections the EIP program has diagnosed in the last five years. Further, many in the community remain unaware of their infection.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control reports HIV infections among young, African-American MSM grew 48 percent from 2006 to 2009—the only group to experience a statistically significant increase in new infections.

Eric Washington, STD Program Director at the Cincinnati Health Department, expects the Sept. 26 forum “to reach community members to discuss the challenges facing this group and methods to encourage behavior change, limit new infections and improve sexual health.”

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