Over 60% of individuals with new HIV infections are gay and bisexual men of color, according to Dr. Butler. Perhaps more startling is the fact that 1 out of every 2 black gay men will be HIV-positive in their lifetime, and 1 out of every 4 Latino gay men, compared with 1 out of every 11 white gay men.
Dr. Butler urged the audience that more action needs to be done to aid and encourage gay and bisexual men of color to get tested, take on treatment if they are infected, and / or start taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP
) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if they are exposed.
If an individual is infected with HIV at age 20, they have the chance of living to 70 or more if they adhere to current treatment regimens.
The toolbox of interventions (from testing to treatment to prevention, including PrEP and PEP) is vitally important. Dr. Butler implored providers to double-down on their efforts to support their high-risk patients. They need to reset their focus on disparities in treatment and ensuring there are no breaks in the treatment cascade. Providers need to advocate for routine HIV testing in order to normalize it and decrease the stigma. “An HIV test should be as routine as a test for cholesterol,” noted Dr. Butler.
And, although the healthcare community is doing a better job at focusing their attention on many of the groups at highest risk of HIV infection, one community remains excluded: the transgender community. As protestors stormed the stage at the end of Dr. Butler’s presentation, lamenting this oversight, there’s no hiding that the data speak for themselves: the transgender community was not represented when presenters were speaking about populations at highest risk of infection. Indeed, without the data, the healthcare community does not know what the rate of new infections is for the transgender population, and until they are included in the data, the true magnitude of the HIV epidemic will not be known.
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