Black men who have sex with men (BMSM) have a staggering 50% chance of acquiring HIV in their lifetime. According to HIV expert, Sheldon Fields, Ph.D., although preventative treatments are available, for BMSM under age 24, incidence of new infection is increasing and inaction is no excuse.
When taken consistently, pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is a proven treatment that can decrease risk of HIV infection in vulnerable populations. While there has been a 73% increase year over year in Americans using PrEP (from 2012 to 2016), Fields contends the most at-risk groups, namely BMSM, are not receiving this treatment.
“We have to reach young MSM of color and educate them about PrEP,” says Fields, who serves as dean of New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) School of Health Professions. “In failing to do so, we are carelessly enabling the HIV epidemic.”
The CDC estimates 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV, including 162,500 patients who are unaware of their status and are believed to transmit 40% of new infections.
For this reason, Fields urges all health care practitioners to adhere to CDC HIV testing guidelines, which recommend every patient be offered an HIV test during routine health screening. He also reminds clinicians that testing should continue after age of 65, as seniors are not HIV-immune.
“Whether a patient is 24 or 74, an HIV test should be a routine part of any health screening,” says Fields. “In taking this very simple step, we could effectively normalize HIV testing the same way we’ve normalized testing for cholesterol and blood sugar.”
Fields, an HIV primary care provider and an established long-term HIV prevention researcher, will present on the topic of PrEP at the 22nd Annual International AIDS Conference taking place July 23-25 in Amsterdam. For interview, please contact Kim Tucker, NYIT Media Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.