A startling increase in the number of reported HIV infections among young black men in Milwaukee County who have sex with men may be linked to several risk factors, including internalized homophobia and living on the streets, according to a joint investigation by local, state and federal health officials released Thursday.
The investigation began after the Wisconsin Division of Public Health noted a 144% increase in reported HIV diagnoses in Milwaukee County from 2000 to 2008 among black men ages 15 to 29 who have sex with men.
The resulting investigation – which involved the state, Milwaukee Health Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – found the increase likely wasn’t due to intensified testing efforts, but to increased transmission of HIV through high risk behavior and nondisclosure of HIV status.
If the spike in HIV diagnoses among young black men isn’t reversed, the entire metro area could see increased rates, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker warned Thursday.
A higher percentage of young black males than nonblack males have male sex partners at least five years older, according to the investigation, which involved a sampling of Milwaukee County men with HIV or syphilis diagnoses. Older men are more likely to be infected with HIV.
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