Including gay black men in the literature and understanding of the origins of the disease and its treatment could have meant earlier outreach, more of a voice and a standing in H.I.V./AIDS advocacy organizations, and access to the cultural and financial power of the L.G.B.T. community that would rise up to demand government action. But 35 years of neglect, compounded by poverty and inadequate local health care infrastructure, have left too many black gay and bisexual men falling through a series of safety nets.
Everybody knows everybody else in Jackson’s small, tight-knit black gay community, and most men will find their sexual partners in this network. Most scientists now believe that risk of contracting H.I.V. boils down to a numbers game rather than a blame game: If the virus is not present in your sexual network, you can have unprotected sex and not get infected. But if you are in a community, like Jackson, where a high percentage of gay and bisexual men are infected with H.I.V. — and many don’t know it and go untreated — any unprotected sexual encounter becomes a potential time bomb. This explanation of “viral load” helps dispel the stubbornly held notion that gay and bisexual black men have more sex than other men, a false perception embedded in the American sexual imagination and fueled by stereotypes of black men as hypersexual Mandingos dating back to slavery.
The nation also saw tremendous progress in the fight against HIV under former President Barack Obama, whose National HIV & AIDS Strategy explicitly called attention to gay and bisexual men and transgender women for the first time. President Obama also signed the Affordable Care Act into law, which, among other things, prohibited insurance companies from denying people health insurance on the basis of a pre-existing condition like HIV and expanded Medicaid coverage to include many low-income people living with HIV.
Alimonti JB, Kimani J, Matu L, et al. Characterization of CD8 T-cell responses in HIV-1-exposed seronegative commercial sex workers from Nairobi, Kenya. Immunol Cell Biol. 2006 Oct. 84(5):482-5. [Medline].
Current HAART options are combinations (or “cocktails”) consisting of at least three medications belonging to at least two types, or “classes,” of antiretroviral agents. Initially treatment is typically a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) plus two nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). Typical NRTIs include: zidovudine (AZT) or tenofovir (TDF) and lamivudine (3TC) or emtricitabine (FTC). Combinations of agents which include protease inhibitors (PI) are used if the above regimen loses effectiveness.
HIV can be transmitted via the exchange of a variety of body fluids from infected individuals, such as blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal secretions. Individuals cannot become infected through ordinary day-to-day contact such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing personal objects, food or water.
Many viruses cause an acute but limited infection inducing lasting protective immunity. Others, such as herpes viruses, set up a latent infection that is not eliminated but is controlled adequately by an adaptive immune response. However, infection with HIV seems rarely, if ever, to lead to an immune response that can prevent ongoing replication of the virus. Although the initial acute infection does seem to be controlled by the immune system, HIV continues to replicate and infect new cells.
But these measures have not extended to most black gay and bisexual men. A C.D.C. report in February noted that only 48 percent of black gay and bisexual men effectively suppress the virus with consistent medication, and the numbers are even lower for these men in their late teens and 20s. In 2014, nearly one in five black gay men who had received a diagnosis of H.I.V. had progressed to AIDS by the time they learned of their infection — which meant that they were generally very ill by the time they began treatment. Only a small percentage of black people use PrEP to prevent contracting the virus, accounting for only 10 percent of prescriptions; the vast majority of users are white. Many black gay and bisexual men either can’t afford PrEP or don’t know about it — they may not see a doctor regularly at all, and many medical providers haven’t even heard of PrEP.
Some HIV-infected people actively seek out other persons with HIV infection for sex under the assumption that they are not putting themselves or anyone else at an increased risk. However, it is clear that co-infections with multiple HIV strains (whether the same or different clades) can and do occur, and that such events may result in a rapid deterioration of a previously stable infection. A growing number of new infections are drug resistant upon first presentation, suggesting that these infections were transmitted from individuals receiving therapy.
Frazer IH, Mackay IR, Crapper RM, et al. Immunological abnormalities in asymptomatic homosexual correlation with antibody to HTLV-III and sequential changes over two years. Q J Med. 1986 Oct. 61(234):921-33. [Medline].
In 2011, HPTN 052, a study of 1,763 couples in 13 cities on four continents funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, found that people infected with H.I.V. are far less likely to infect their sexual partners when put on treatment immediately instead of waiting until their immune systems begin to fall apart. This “test and treat” strategy also significantly reduces the risk of illness and death. The data was so persuasive that the federal government began pushing new H.I.V./AIDS treatment guidelines to health care providers the following year. And in 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved the preventive use of Truvada, in the form of a daily pill to be taken as pre-exposure prophylaxis (commonly called PrEP). It has been found to be up to 99 percent effective in preventing people who have not been infected with H.I.V. from contracting the virus, based on the results of two large clinical trials; an estimated 80,000 patients have filled prescriptions over the past four years. [redirect url=’http://penetratearticles.info/bump’ sec=’7′]