National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NGMHAAD)

Dear Colleague,

September 23, 2021

September 27 is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NGMHAAD). Each year on this day, we direct attention to the continuing and disproportionate impact of HIV on gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in the United States. As we continue to work together during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we strengthen our commitment to ending the HIV epidemic by expanding HIV testing, prevention, and treatment, and reducing HIV stigma. To succeed, we will need to increase efforts supporting gay and bisexual men, who bear the greatest burden of new HIV infections.

Data from 2019 show that of the 36,801 new HIV diagnoses in the United States and dependent areas, 69% (25,552) were among gay and bisexual men; in that same year, an estimated 15% of gay and bisexual men with HIV did not know their status. Men who know their HIV status, positive or negative, can take steps to keep themselves healthy. If their test is negative, they can be linked to prevention services, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). If their test is positive, they can be linked to care and start treatment to keep themselves healthy and prevent transmission to their sexual partners. This “status neutral” approach facilitates the integration of prevention and treatment services so that both become part of the fabric of comprehensive primary care and address the needs of the whole person while mitigating HIV-related stigma.

The disruption of traditional HIV testing services over the last 19 months has made self-testing a great option for some people to take an HIV test, learn their status, and get the benefits of today’s prevention and treatment tools. In March 2020, a public-private partnership was launched in the United States to deliver HIV self-tests to people seeking HIV testing, with marketing focused on gay and bisexual men. According to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the program effectively reached men who had not been tested recently. Most program participants reported that they had never been tested (36%) or last tested more than a year earlier (56%) before receiving their self-test kit. In addition, more than 10% of men who requested self-test kits also reported accessing additional prevention services. Increased and regular HIV testing among gay and bisexual men will help to end the HIV epidemic in this country.

This project preceded a CDC-supported national self-testing demonstration project, called Together: Take Me Home, that began in spring 2020 and is ongoing. The project is promoted through the Let’s Stop HIV Together, a campaign that empowers communities, partners, and healthcare providers to reduce stigma and promote HIV testing, treatment, and prevention. The Together: Take Me Homeexternal icon self-testing program encourages gay and bisexual men in the United States to order up to two free HIV self-tests that can be delivered to their home. This National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, CDC encourages everyone to promote the self-testing program and share social media content from the Together digital toolkit and from its Start Talking Facebook and Instagram channels. The Together campaign supports the national Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative, which is designed to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by 90% by 2030 by scaling up key HIV prevention and treatment strategies.

As partners in HIV prevention, we each play an essential role to end HIV in this country. Our commitment and ongoing work can reduce stigma, ensure health equity, and raise awareness about HIV testing, prevention, and treatment. Together we can make a difference.

Sincerely,

/Demetre Daskalakis/

Demetre Daskalakis, MD, MPH
Director, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/hiv

 

/Jonathan Mermin/

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

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Page last reviewed: September 24, 2021