Young gay men lead in new HIV infections

Published: October 13, 2011

For six years of his life, Tim Ward loved only one guy.

For the last 10, he has had to come to terms with having never questioned that unfailing devotion.

After years of ignoring advice to get tested for HIV/AIDS, Ward finally submitted and in the winter of 2002 he got his answer.

He was 18 and HIV positive.

The news put him in the company of those who, experts say, make up the largest segment of new HIV infections in the nation: 13- to 29-year-old men who have sex with men.

In the years since his diagnosis, Ward has worked tirelessly to reach as many teens as he possibility can — to warn them about the virus and against teenage sex and to teach them to how to protect themselves.

"That’s what drives me," he said.

Thirty years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, gay and bisexual men of all races remain most affected by HIV in the U.S., said Tracy Elliott, executive director of AID Atlanta.

For instance, in 2009, he said white men accounted for the largest number of new infections — 11,400 –- followed closely by black men – 10,800. In Georgia, there were 1,366 new HIV diagnoses in the same year. Of those, 49 percent were among gay men, with blacks accounting for 74 percent, whites 21 percent and Hispanics 5 percent.

“It’s frightening beyond belief,” Elliott said.

As the agency prepares to host its 21st annual AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run Sunday in Piedmont Park, Elliott said the numbers highlight the need to step up education and prevention efforts among those infected and affected by the deadly virus.

“They certainly indicate we still have a significant problem with education and prevention in the gay community at large but particularly young gay men who did not live through the worst part of the epidemic,” he said. 

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