A new report reveals that gay and bisexual men remain dramatically and disproportionately affected by HIV and syphilis in the United States.

The data analysis released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) is more than 44 times that of other men and more than 40 times that of women.

The rate of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM is more than 46 times that of other men and more than 71 times that of women, the analysis says.

“While the heavy toll of HIV and syphilis among gay and bisexual men has been long recognised, this analysis shows just how stark the health disparities are between this and other populations,” said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

“It is clear that we will not be able to stop the US HIV epidemic until every affected community, along with health officials nationwide, prioritise the needs of gay and bisexual men with HIV prevention efforts.”

Research shows that a range of complex factors contribute to the high rates of HIV and syphilis among gay and bisexual men. These factors include high prevalence of HIV and other STDs among MSM, which increases the risk of disease exposure, and limited access to prevention services.

Other factors are complacency about HIV risk, particularly among young gay and bisexual men; difficulty of consistently maintaining safe behaviours with every sexual encounter over the course of a lifetime; and lack of awareness of syphilis symptoms and how it can be transmitted (e.g., oral sex).

Additionally, factors such as homophobia and stigma can prevent MSM from seeking prevention, testing, and treatment services.

Also, the risk of HIV transmission through receptive anal sex is much greater than the risk of transmission via other sexual activities, and some gay and bisexual men are relying on prevention strategies that may be less effective than consistent condom use.

In another report by CDC researchers, published in the journal AIDS, scientists have failed to find that circumcision has any impact on HIV transmission among MSM.

While studies in Africa have shown that HIV transmission is lower among circumcised men who have heterosexual sex, the same does not appear to be true among gay and bisexual men in the US.

Reuters reports that CDC researchers found that circumcised and uncircumcised men appeared to show no significant difference in the risk of HIV infection over a three year period.

The authors of the study admitted, however, that their findings are inconclusive as their sample of uncircumcised men was very low and recommended further studies on the topic among larger sample groups.

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