Study finds large disparity of HIV and syphilis rates among black and Hispanic MSM

November 9, 2018

For the first time, researchers from the Emory Coalition for Applied Modeling for Prevention program have calculated state-level disparity measures for HIV and syphilis for men who have sex with men (MSM) using both state-level disease reports and population-based estimates for MSM. Their findings are published in the American Journal of Public Health.  

Researchers found that black MSM were more than three times as likely as white MSM to be living with HIV infection and were more than six times as likely as white MSM to have a new diagnosis of HIV in 2016. Similarly, Hispanic MSM were over 50 percent more likely than white MSM to be living with HIV and nearly three times as likely as white MSM to have a new HIV diagnosis.  

A leading national prevention goal aims to reduce disparities in new diagnoses of HIV by at least 15 percent by 2020. Understanding how disparities play out in specific states is an important step in achieving national goals for reducing disparities.

“National goals can only be met through the accumulation of many local success, and these data are intended for local program use and local program improvement,” says Patrick Sullivan, DVM, PhD, lead author of the study.

The northeastern states led the highest Hispanic-white disparities for HIV diagnoses while 50 percent of the states with the largest black-white disparities for HIV diagnoses were in the South.

HIV and syphilis affect black and Hispanic groups to a degree out of proportion to their presence in the population. Disparities by race also exist in the subgroup of Americans most impacted by the HIV epidemic –MSM. The disparities among minority MSM in both HIV and syphilis can be partly attributed to various social determinants of health.

Each state has its own patterns of HIV and syphilis rates and, based on existing local programs, funding, and gaps, each state should develop a tailored program to address both the rates and the disparities. The data provided here should be useful to states to develop a profile of programmatic needs. State progress in disease rates and disparities will both be needed to reduce HIV and syphilis rates and to meet national prevention goals.