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HIV/AIDS In The Lives Of Gay And Bisexual Men In The United States

Section 1: Importance Of HIV/AIDS As An Issue, Personal Concern, And Personal Connections

HIV/AIDS As An Issue Facing Gay And Bisexual Men

Men in the United States who identify as gay or bisexual see HIV/AIDS as the number one health issue, and as a top priority among overall issues facing their community today. When asked in their own words to name the most important issue facing gay and bisexual men today, 20 percent name HIV/AIDS, ranking behind discrimination/lack of acceptance (43 percent) and roughly equal to two other issues: equal rights (26 percent) and marriage equality (24 percent). Asked specifically about health issues affecting gay and bisexual men, HIV is by far the number one issue at 52 percent, followed by other sexually transmitted diseases (28 percent). Smaller shares name safe sex in general (9 percent), mental health (8 percent), and drug use (8 percent).

While HIV is named as the top health care issue among all subgroups of gay and bisexual men, the share naming HIV is somewhat larger among those who identify as gay versus those who consider themselves bisexual (59 percent versus 35 percent), and among those who know someone who is currently living with HIV versus those who don’t (60 percent versus 41 percent).

Ranking Of HIV Among Issues Facing Gay And Bisexual Men

Figure 1

Asked about a variety of policy issues affecting gay and bisexual men, just over half (54 percent) say efforts aimed at prevention and treatment of HIV should be a top priority, while nearly as many say the same thing about efforts to combat bullying and violence directed at LGBT youth (51 percent) and equal employment rights for LGBT people (47 percent). Slightly fewer see legal gay marriage (40 percent) and adoption rights for same-sex couples (29 percent) as top priorities, though it should be noted that large majorities see all of these priorities as at least “very important.”

Majority Of Gay/Bisexual Men Say HIV Prevention And Treatment Efforts Should Be A Top Priority

Figure 2

In addition to seeing HIV as a priority for their community, about half of gay and bisexual men (49 percent) say HIV/AIDS is a “very” or “somewhat” significant issue for them personally, while the other half (51 percent) say it is “not too significant” or “not a significant issue” in their lives. Men who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as those who say they know someone living with HIV, are more likely than whites and those who don’t know someone living with the disease to say that HIV/AIDS is a significant personal issue.

Men Of Color And Those Who Know A Person Living With HIV More Likely To Say HIV/AIDS Is A Significant Personal Issue

Figure 3

Many are unaware that HIV infections are increasing among gay and bisexual men, the only risk group for which this is true in the United States.1 Just about a third (32 percent) know that the number of new infections each year among gay and bisexual men is increasing, while 22 percent think the number is decreasing, 26 percent say it’s staying about the same, and one in five say they don’t know. Men who identify as gay are somewhat more likely to know that new HIV infections are increasing compared with those who identify as bisexual (36 percent versus 22 percent).

One-Third Know New HIV Infections Are On The Rise Among Gay And Bisexual Men

Figure 4

Personal Concern about Risk

Only about a third (35 percent) of gay and bisexual men say they are at least somewhat concerned about becoming infected with HIV. Just over four in ten (43 percent) say they are concerned about contracting other STDs, while even more report being concerned about developing cancer (61 percent), having a heart attack (58 percent), and developing diabetes (44 percent).

Concern About Getting Other Diseases Outranks Concern About Becoming Infected With HIV

Figure 5

Gay men of color are almost twice as likely their white counterparts to say they are at least somewhat concerned about becoming infected with HIV (53 percent versus 28 percent).2 Similarly among the general population, Black Americans are more likely than whites to say they’re personally concerned about becoming infected (36 percent versus 14 percent).3

Among Gay Men (And The Public Overall), Minorities Express More Concern Than Whites About Potential Infection

Figure 6

Personal Connections

About half (49 percent) of gay and bisexual men overall say they know someone who is currently living with HIV, and 32 percent say someone close to them has died from HIV/AIDS. Among the general public, these shares are much smaller – just one in five (19 percent) say they know someone living with HIV and 15 percent have lost someone close to them to the disease. Among African Americans nationally – another group besides gay and bisexual men that is disproportionately affected by HIV – just over a quarter (27 percent) say they know someone living with the disease, and a similar share (28 percent, almost equal to the rate among gay men) say someone close to them has died from it.

Half Of Gay/Bisexual Men Know Someone Living With HIV, One Third Say Someone Close To Them Has Died From The Disease

Figure 7

Among gay and bisexual men, there is a large generational divide in the share saying someone close to them has died from HIV/AIDS. Nearly half (47 percent) of those ages 35 and older say they have lost someone close to them to the disease, while just 8 percent of those ages 18-34 say the same. Older men are also somewhat more likely than younger men to say they know someone currently living with HIV (54 percent versus 39 percent).

Generational Divide In Losing A Loved One To HIV

Figure 8

Ten percent of gay and bisexual men indicated that they themselves are HIV-positive. However, this is likely to be an underestimate of the true rate in the population, since some men may have chosen not to disclose their own status in the survey, and others are likely to be unaware they are HIV-positive. It is estimated that approximately 12 to 13 percent of all gay and bisexual men in the United States are HIV-positive4, including one in five in many major U.S. cities5. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also estimates that 18 percent of gay and bisexual men with HIV do not know their status.6

Executive Summary Section 2: Awareness And Opinions About HIV Prevention And Treatment

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.