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HIV rates rise in young gay men

Nationwide trend impacts Mecklenburg County

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While HIV and AIDS rates are finally beginning to drop in the United States, a recent New York Times article presents a startling trend in the group that is continuing to see an increase in new infections.

Young gay men, those under 30 years old, are accounting for a rise in new cases of HIV infections. Though nationwide, according to the Times, new cases for older gay men are dropping.

But what about here at home?

Metrolina AIDS Project MSM project manager Devin Baez says this is true in Mecklenburg County as well.

"In Mecklenburg County, men who have sex with men have the highest cases of HIV, and heterosexual women are the fastest rising group," says Baez.

The greatest at risk, he says, are college-aged men. This is because, according to Baez, when people go away to college, they are interacting with people from different areas and different backgrounds. Also, many people may not know their status.

"Some people don't realize that they are engaging in risky behavior," Baez says.

Raw data from Mecklenburg County shows that between 2005 and 2006, cases of HIV in gay men rose from 125 in 2005 to 141.

Baez says that when there is a health-care crisis, minorities are hit harder. "Men of color, largely African-American men, are affected."

Black men account for 21.8 percent of new HIV cases, compared to 10.8 percent of white men who have been newly diagnosed with HIV.

The highest number of new HIV cases in men occurs in 20- to 39-year-olds, with 161 cases reported. For women in that age group, the number of new cases reported was 65.

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