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The gay community continued to be integral in these efforts, both within the government and within clinics, on consumer advisory boards, and in their own neighborhoods. The continuum of care gay men had worked so hard to put in place was still there and was what allowed HRSA to make such a seamless integration of research findings into actual practice. And while gay men recognize the importance of HAART in curtailing the spread of HIV, they maintain a voice for the slew of support services they worked so hard to instill during those early years.

AIDS and Gay Men of Color

From the beginning of the epidemic gay men of color were disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, and by the time the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program launched in 1990, they accounted for approximately 30 percent of reported cumulative AIDS cases.18 The AIDS rate among Black men that year was 92.4, or more than 3 times that among White men.19

 

MSM/MSM-IDU AIDS Diagnoses by Race/Ethnicity
View as a table
MSM/MSM-IDU AIDS Diagnoses by Race/Ethnicity
Year White Black Hispanic Asian American Indian Other
1987 10,618 2,392 1,405     119
1988 14,354 3,765 2,360 360 46 3
1989 14,944 4,230 2,232 177 41 41
1990 17,920 5,199 3,029 209 53 63
1991 17,591 5,300 3,588 210 60 65
1992 17,308 5,836 3,511 233 88 52
1993 35,484 12,380 7,372 533 223 69
1994 23,526 9,210 5,504 395 125 67
1995 20,433 8,261 4,883 345 131 43
1996 17,719 7,689 4,386 329 110 50
1997 12,865 6,646 3,722 241 98 62
1998 10,009 5,248 3,054 194 69 52
1999 9,001 5,127 2,855 173 79 35
2000 7,831 4,491 2,502 168 83 35
2001 7,427 4,605 2,433 195 88 19
2002 7,874 5,054 2,793 222 96 16
2003 8,472 5,247 3,365 273 108 89
2004 8,129 5,244 3,505 244 93 88
2005 7,619 5,327 3,177 253 82 130
2006 6,983 4,835 3,103 242 84 131
2007 7,201 4,957 3,223 226 86 204
2008 7,726 6,909 4,300 368 121 245
2009 7,118 6,741 4,136 277 101 408
*MSM= men who have sex with men (term used in data source)
**IDU= injection drug users
Source: CDC, HIV/AIDS Surveillance Year-end Reports 1987-2009

Today men of color account for more than 60 percent of all new AIDS cases among gay men,20 and young Black gay men (ages 13 to 29) are experiencing the greatest number of new HIV infections than any other age or racial group of gay men in America.21

Though the AIDS epidemic among minorities in America did not begin to see wide scale attention from the general public until the 1990s, gay men of color have always been involved in and served by the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

Ernest Hopkins, who was working with the community based organization Best Friends of D.C. when the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program was enacted and today works for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, recalls that, early on, care for Black gay men was heavily focused in poorer areas of D.C.

Washington DC’s Black gay community had “hit the wall in 1989 and 1990,” says Hopkins. “We started to see a flood of people who had been infected for a while and were really sick.” Hopkins says that treatment with AZT was “terribly taboo” in the Black community at the time, in part because of misinformation being spread by people who disputed both the cause of HIV/AIDS and the cures they were peddling.

Just as many White gay men had encountered in their communities, many health care providers in the African-American community at the time did not see it as their role to care for people living with AIDS and would refer them elsewhere.

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