Forum Seeks to Educate Community About Growing HIV Trend
CINCINNATI—According to local health officials, Cincinnati faces a growing epidemic of new HIV infections in a subgroup that few target for anti-HIV messaging: young, African-American men who have sex with men (MSMs).
To educate the community about the trend and discuss risk reduction and health improvement, members of the Cincinnati Regional Advisory Group (CRAG) will host "Responding to the Crisis: Black MSM and HIV in Cincinnati,” a community forum on Monday, Sept. 26, from 6-8 p.m. at American Red Cross, 2111 Dana Avenue.
"We’re seeing more and more young people in the emergency department with HIV,” said Andrew Ruffner, director of UC’s Early Intervention Program (EIP), an HIV testing and prevention program at the UC Health University Hospital Emergency Department. "This population—young, African-American MSMs—is becoming the most dominant demographic group for new HIV infections.”
Ruffner estimates members of this group account for one in five infections the EIP program has diagnosed in the last five years. Further, many in the community remain unaware of their infection.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control reports HIV infections among young, African-American MSM grew 48 percent from 2006 to 2009—the only group to experience a statistically significant increase in new infections.
Eric Washington, STD Program Director at the Cincinnati Health Department, expects the Sept. 26 forum "to reach community members to discuss the challenges facing this group and methods to encourage behavior change, limit new infections and improve sexual health.”
Prior to the forum, CRAG will collaborate with UC’s Local Performance Site of the Pennsylvania/MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center to provide an educational session for health care and social workers on how to discuss HIV with young, African-American MSMs.
"Our goal with the continuing education session is to have providers start to include sexual and reproductive health considerations in their clinic and social assessments when working with this population,” said Ruffner. "We’re trying to raise community awareness—both in the provider community and in the general community—that this is a problem, that people who are young and African-American are contracting HIV.
"We’re not thinking about HIV as a public health problem that affects this population,” he continues, "and as a result, the preventative messages aren’t being directed in the places we need to direct them. We need people to be aware that this is a real problem that is not going away unless we start talking about it.”
Registration is not required but requested. To register for the forum, call Cathy Siemer at (513) 584-7535.