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Dear Colleague: September 27, 2019

Dear Colleague, information from CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

Dear Colleague:

September 27 is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day that reminds us of the continuing and disproportionate impact of HIV on gay and bisexual men in the United States. This year’s theme, The Conversation About HIV Is Changing: Talk Undetectable. Talk PrEP., acknowledges that while great strides have been made, we have yet to harness the full potential of some of our most powerful HIV prevention tools.

As part of the proposed Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, which aims to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by 90% in 10 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners would implement a number of strategies to maximize the prevention potential of these powerful tools.  One of the key strategies involves increasing access to and use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)—a single pill proven to be highly effective in preventing HIV infection for individuals at high risk. When taken daily, PrEP can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV from sex by about 99 percent. But while PrEP use is increasing rapidly, it still falls far short of what’s needed to reach HIV prevention goals—especially in communities that could benefit the most.

CDC researchers recently published an article in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in which data from CDC’s National HIV Behavioral Surveillance (NHBS) system were used to assess overall rates and racial/ethnic differences along the HIV PrEP continuum. The findings indicate that, in 2017, black or African American and Hispanic/Latino men who have sex with men (MSM) who likely met clinical indications for PrEP were significantly less likely than white MSM to be aware of PrEP, to have discussed PrEP with a healthcare provider, or to have used PrEP in the past year. Specifically, only 43% of black, 44% of Hispanic/Latino, and 58% of white MSM reported discussing PrEP with a healthcare provider in the past year. Moreover, among those at-risk individuals who had discussed PrEP with a healthcare provider in the past year, only 55% of black, 62% of Hispanic/Latino, and 68% of white MSM reported PrEP use. Overall, findings from this analysis indicate that only 26% of black, 30% of Hispanic/Latino, and 42% of white MSM who participated in NHBS and who could benefit from PrEP reported taking PrEP in the past year. These findings highlight the critical need to increase PrEP awareness and discussions about PrEP between MSM and their healthcare providers, all of which can help increase PrEP use among MSM.

Talking openly about HIV is essential to the success of prevention strategies among gay and bisexual men. CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign, includes Start Talking. Stop HIV., aimed at reducing HIV infections among gay, bisexual, and other MSM by encouraging open discussion between sex partners and friends about a range of HIV prevention strategies. Campaign resources for the awareness day include Talk Undetectable and Talk PrEP, which emphasize the importance of HIV treatment for getting and keeping an undetectable viral load so there is effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to HIV-negative partners through sex, and the use of PrEP for preventing HIV. Campaign materials are free and resources feature ideas on how to start talking about HIV prevention, HIV prevention basics, and resources to supplement your prevention efforts. Materials such as videos, posters, web banners, infographics, and more are available. CDC encourages its partners in HIV prevention to download and use campaign resources, including materials for distinct audiences, such as black and Hispanic/Latino MSM, to help increase PrEP awareness and discussion.

Together, we have made tremendous progress, but more must be done to increase PrEP use, increase viral suppression, and eliminate racial/ethnic disparities among gay and bisexual men in the United States. As a partner in HIV prevention, you play an essential role in achieving a future free of new HIV infections, and we look forward to our continued collaboration.


/Eugene McCray/
Eugene McCray, MD
Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

/Jonathan Mermin/
Jonathan H. Mermin, MD, MPH
Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention