CDC study: "Closeted" black men play key role in HIV’s spread

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 11 2003 1:00 AM ET

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that young African-American men who have sex with other men but do not identify as gay or bisexual are less likely than their out peers to have taken an HIV antibody test, Reuters Health reports. They also are likely to recently have had unprotected sex with women, putting the women at risk for HIV, according to the study.

Researchers analyzed a survey examining the sexual practices and attitudes of nearly 5,600 men who have sex with men, all of whom underwent testing for HIV and hepatitis B. Of the respondents, 637 said that they were "not out to anyone" about the fact that they had sex with men. Although HIV infection rates did not vary significantly between the out and the closeted survey respondents, only about 2% of the HIV-positive men who were closeted were aware that they carried the virus compared with about 25% of the openly gay group.

"The data suggest that a substantial portion of nondisclosers are infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and are at high risk for transmitting these infections to their male and female sex partners," the study concluded. "The findings in this report suggest that public awareness and prevention programs should be developed" for closeted men "to reduce internalized homophobia and other factors that influence nondisclosure."

The full report, "HIV/STD Risks in Young Men Who Have Sex With Men Who Do Not Disclose Their Sexual Orientation--Six Cities, 1994-2000," can be seen in the February 7 edition of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.