What percentage of young MSM have HIV?

Recently, a fuss arose over a quote regarding HIV and young men who have sex with men (MSM) from Regina Griggs in a OneNewsNow article regarding youth and sexual identity. She said (in context):

Research shows that individuals often go through periods of gender and sexual confusion as they grow from children to teenagers to adults. Griggs wonders why, then, would schools opt to send children along a dangerous path. “Why are we allowing people to tell them, ‘Try it — you might like it?’ Over 70 percent of young kids 13- to 24-years-old, men having sex with men, are now HIV-positive,” Griggs notes. (see editor’s note)

Griggs here is describing prevalence, which is the total number of people in a population with a certain disease at a given time. However, this is clearly incorrect, as other bloggers have pointed out.

She may have been referring to a fact sheet at the CDC called HIV/AIDS Among Men Who Have Sex with Men when she was quoted by ONN.

In the United States, HIV infection and AIDS have had a tremendous effect on men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM accounted for 71% of all HIV infections among male adults and adolescents in 2005 (based on data from 33 states with long-term, confidential name-based HIV reporting), even though only about 5% to 7% of male adults and adolescents in the United States identify themselves as MSM.

The ONN editors recently added a note pointing out the 71% figure from the CDC fact sheet.

This simply says that men having sex with men accounted for 71% of infections among all males reporting infections in 2005. MSM was a large driver of infections reported in 2005. While this is a sobering statistic, it does not mean what Mrs. Griggs said it means.

I do not know what the actual prevalence of MSM aged 13-24 with HIV is but it would need to be over 800,000 cases in order for her statistic to be true. This does not seem possible.

I arrived at that number by looking US Census data for 2005 which pegged the number of males in the US between 15-24 at about 19.7 million. The CDC estimates 5-7% of this age group as being MSM which yields 1.2 million males. If 70% of this group was HIV positive, then that would mean Mrs. Griggs is claiming that about 840,000 young men have HIV. Of course, these numbers are estimates since I rounded figures and used the Census data starting with age 15 and not 13 as the CDC does.

According to the CDC fact sheet, there are not that many people living with AIDS at present:

At the end of 2005, an estimated 217,323 MSM (191,362 MSM and 25,961 MSM who inject drugs) were living with AIDS, representing 67% of male adults and adolescents living with AIDS and 52% of all people living with AIDS.

These numbers are staggering enough without exaggeration or misinterpretation. I commented here because many have asked about the validity of these numbers and the quote made me curious about the scope of the issue.

  • Lynn David

    All it means is that 7 out of every 10 or 71 out of every 100 men of the ages 13-24 who are reported to be HIV postive (in 33 states) happens to have come by it via having sex with another man (or also IV drug use). Well actually the CDC report is for all age groups so we cannot in any good measure say that that percentage applies for a 13-24 age group.

    But the total number of men who became HIV positive in 2005 (in the 33 states) was just 27,455. If all of those were in your 15-24 age category (1.2 million) then the rate of HIV infection would be ([27,455/1,200,000]x100%) or approxiamately 2.29%. YIKES, big difference. But that rate would be among all men so maybe MSM being 7% of a total guestimated 95 million men in 2005 for all states? And just guessing but maybe those 33 states have some of the larger population so maybe 80% of all men could be ([95,000,000x0.07]x0.8) or 5.32 million. So the guestimated overall rate for the 33 states during 2005 would be ([27,455/5,320,000]x100%) or an approxiamated/guestimated 0.52% infection rate among all MSM (and MSM/IVusers) in the 33 states during.

    That approxiamately/guestimated infection rate – 0.52% – would likely put the number of your year 2005 1.2 million 15-24 MSMs at an approxiamately/guestimated 6,200. Oh well

    The CDC says 5-7% of men are having sex with men? Paging Dr. Kinsey!

  • Ann

    This is an article from the Associated Press that was in yesterday’s newspaper

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/MED_HIV_INFECTIONS

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    PFOX and ONN both are pretty bad when it comes to facts. On the rare occasion that either of them (but particularly the former) actually list sources, they have misconstrued the data so much that it isn’t close to accurate. The one salient point in the new CDC article is that infection rates have not gone down; that’s sad but we knew that already. Rates have not gone up, but they are higher overall than was calculated earlier.

    In a sound-bite world, these sloppy slants make it even harder to get accurate information for the casual reader. I’m pretty convinced these days that PFOX and much of the hard-line, anti-gay orgs really aren’t interested in the facts. Some seem to be, but not the ones that are, oh, let’s see, boycotting McDonalds or other such nonsense.

  • David Blakeslee

    “The one salient point in the new CDC article is that infection rates have not gone down; that’s sad but we knew that already. Rates have not gone up, but they are higher overall than was calculated earlier.”

    I would argue that in addition to sad, it is tragic and possibly malpractice on the part of social policy experts.

    Consider the emphasis on what is called “comprehensive sex education” in public school over the last three decades.

    Consider that it appears that large cities are the epicenter for this crisis (this is hearsay, someone may have a citation for this).

    Consider that large city centers take the most aggressive stand in education about STD’s.

    Just as with gun safety and drug education, I think education about the Aids virus, although noble in intent, isn’t effective either…..

    Unless you view an ongoing, unchanging infection rate as progress.

    The Core Problem:

    Adolescents are impulsive by nature. Boys much more impulsive than girls.

    Let’s put “education dollars” to better use

    How about simple training in inhibition and situation avoidance?

    Once sex hormones are activated, “Katie, bar the door,”

    Education, by itself, is a naive and failed goal.

  • David Blakeslee

    Regarding misusing and misunderstanding statistics…it is a longstanding problem of the media generally and disgraceful in Christian publications which should have a higher fidelity to the truth.

  • Dave G.

    Is anyone interested the real point Griggs was making, despite the math error?

    “Children should never be told to identify themselves as heterosexual, gay, bi-sexual, transgender,” Griggs contends. “Kids change as they mature and they go through puberty. Lots of questions that need answers come up.”

    Research shows that individuals often go through periods of gender and sexual confusion as they grow from children to teenagers to adults. Griggs wonders why, then, would schools opt to send children along a dangerous path. “Why are we allowing people to tell them, ‘Try it — you might like it?’

    . . . How many times did you ever change your mind about who you liked; what you wanted to be when you grow up?” she asks. Why then, she laments, would schools want to encourage youngsters to “experiment in unsafe sexual practices.” The homosexual clubs, according to Griggs, are simply recruiting kids into homosexuality.

    It seems to me this is more important than quibbling over misquoted statistics. How many cases of HIV could have been prevented if kids knew that they didn’t HAVE to be gay or participate in MSM if they choose not to.?

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    How many cases of HIV could have been prevented if kids knew that they didn’t HAVE to be gay or participate in MSM if they choose not

    to.?

    About 13,000, or at least that’s the CDC estimate. Yes that is a horrifying number… but it’s also pretty low when compared to other causes of death.

  • Lynn David

    Dave G. wrote: How many cases of HIV could have been prevented if kids knew that they didn’t HAVE to be gay or participate in MSM if they choose not to.?

    My guestimate would be pretty much none. Because most of my generation (I am 53) generally experienced more than enough pressure not to be gay. And frankly some of the near-closeted behaviours that in part resulted from those pressures was often to blame for HIV infections.

    Though I am not exactly sure of the last part of your statement: “How many cases of HIV could have been prevented if kids knew that they didn’t HAVE to …. participate in MSM if they choose not to.?” I’d think anyone would know that rather implicitly. I knew I didn’t have to participate in heterosexual sex (aka MSW) if I didn’t want to (choose to); but I tried it anyway. Again, I think that behaviour of the closet could have ended in further closeted behaviours which more than likely promoted the spread of HIV.

    In short I don’t think persons like Griggs quite know what it means to know you are gay, even to try to do what you can to “shake it off yourself.” They make it sound so easy. I find the attitude expressed in such statements to be unflinchingly in denial of the acceptance that gay people do exist. And as I have often said that I would have preferred that a homosexual club had simply recruited me into homosexuality. That is homosexuality the state of being, which is what GSAs are, in part, about.

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    It seems to me this is more important than quibbling over misquoted statistics.

    Stating that 71% of teens and young adults are infected with HIV is hardly a rounding error — it’s monumental. And that’s another problem, where is the evidence that this was a misquote? Griggs and PFOX have a history of distortion, and this is just one more reason to be skeptical of anything they say. If that were not so, or if Griggs were to promptly correct herself (not the sad edit on ONN), it might be different.

    The rest of that Griggs quote is nonsense and I’m just too tired to point out the obvious.

    How many cases of HIV could have been prevented if kids knew that they didn’t HAVE to be gay or participate in MSM if they choose not to.?

    The best study of ex-gays yet, J&Y, showed that any real, substantial change in sexual orientation was minimal and unlikely. But what really concerns me is your suggestion that a loving, sexual relationship with a person of the same sex must lead to HIV. This goes in tandem with Grigg’s statement above, and does not help anything. Lying to these young adults will either destroy their trust or stigmatize them if they do happen to be GLBT and believe you. Gay doesn’t = HIV any more than being African-American = HIV (highly disproportionate rates of infection).

    Perhaps if we could get rid of the irrational, inaccurate commentary, we could help them gain self-esteem for being who they are without shame, and teach them — gay and straight — the consequences of promiscuous behavior and all the ways to avoid them. And yes, teach them also that they don’t have to become sexually active yet — gay , straight or questioning.

    Griggs blames the school system for “making” her son gay. She has that anger to drive her, and that mess in Montgomery County is just part of the damage she has caused along the way.

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    About 13,000, or at least that’s the CDC estimate. Yes that is a horrifying number… but it’s also pretty low when compared to other causes of death.

    That’s the total of deaths from AIDS in that age range or an estimate of those that might have been avoided through better education? I’m thinking that just letting someone know they don’t have to have sex would not avoid a large number of infections (if we are following Dave G’s speculation).

  • Mary

    Just a note:

    The J &Y study was only completed over a short period of time with a selected group of people. Holding it out as the end all and be all of change in sexual attraction change is hardly science or definitive proof since it’s scope was very limited. It is a good study but far from the complete study that is truly needed. Many people who are in the “ex gay” group will tell you that it took significantly more time to feel any substantial shift in attraction.

  • Warren

    From the article –

    “Why are we allowing people to tell them, ‘Try it — you might like it?’

    I was a pitbull on this topic for awhile from about 2003-2006 and it was rare to hear this reported. I do not think this is as widespread as I used to think. For the most part, I think responsible gay activists would discourage this kind of thing as a matter of gay identification.

    There are groups that suggest something like this to kids, both gay and straight, via irresponsible messages about sex in general. I am with Blakeslee on this; this is most often a male problem and education money should be aimed at males. Refusal skills for girls should be a part of it but guys need to be told what their brains are doing to them – and this includes same-sex attracted males since whether they identify as gay or not, males have sex with males. Some straight males are doing it since they can’t get a girl pregnant that way and some are because they know they are homosexual in their basic desire. Looking at the data, to me, it looks like the target group for prevention is male.

  • Warren

    I just completed a study of same-sex attracted males and the number who say they have changed dramatically over an average of 20 years of marriage is very small, lower than Jones and Yarhouse. The final numbers are not ready to be revealed yet, and the study was not a study of change per se, but we can make some inferences based on our survey.

    I know some changers are not married but I would expect that a married SSA group would be a good place to look for dramatic change.

    Now back to topic.

  • Warren

    Yes.

  • Warren

    I have known a few people who would have been susceptible to a “try it” message about a sexual practice they did not already feel drawn to. These people had many problems and were quite prone to peer pressure.

    I would add that most of the same-sex attracted males I have worked with have received the “Try it you’ll like it message” just about every day. However, it came in the form of “Try it (sex) with girls, you’ll like it.” And many of them did try it and didn’t like it.

  • jayhuck

    Warren,

    I’m assuming when you say “married” you mean to someone of the opposite sex????

  • jayhuck

    Warren,

    I agree that education is our best tool for preventing the spread of disease, but if recent history has shown us anything, it is that abstinence-only or safe-sex only types of education fail kids. I think its time to bring the two ideas of abstinence and safeR-sex together – to teach them together and stop acting like this subject must be taught only one way or the other because of our different ideologies.

  • jayhuck

    Regarding misusing and misunderstanding statistics…it is a longstanding problem of the media generally and disgraceful in Christian publications which should have a higher fidelity to the truth.

    AMEN David B. – but they don’t, and that says a great deal about them, because they should be aiming much, much higher.

  • David Blakeslee

    I’ve missed you guys over the last year…

    Sharing ideas and perspectives has contributed to my growth…and hopefully refined our understanding.

    It has been good to be part of a blog that more and more shouts accusations and incriminations less and less.

    How is that for a sentence?

  • jayhuck

    Its a heck of a sentence David :)

    “Try it you might like it”???? Seriously? Just when you think the Griggs spin-machine could do no worse! Yikes

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    PS – David – Don’t stay away so long next time. Or just don’t stay away.

  • Ann

    Please try to remember that PFOX hears quite a different story from their members or people initially going to them for understanding of homosexuality. Many of them are parents with broken hearts that are estranged from their children or have contentious relationships with them. They are hurting deeply. What I have heard/read is that school counselors have encouraged students to “come out” and “be themselves” without offering any other alternatives. They have also experienced therapists saying the same thing. I do not like inaccurate statistics either, however, I can also see how desperate one can get and how that can lead them to believe whatever brings them relief. The divide is wide and deep and until there can be a meeting of the minds in a fair and reasoned out way, I am afraid desperate people will continue doing desperate things.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Ann – You make a good point. However, I would add that the leaders of PFOX have had other experiences and input which they have ignored. In other words, the coercive stuff happens but this can be addressed without hyperbole and exaggeration.

  • Ann

    However, I would add that the leaders of PFOX have had other experiences and input which they have ignored. In other words, the coercive stuff happens but this can be addressed without hyperbole and exaggeration.

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    Thank you for adding this – I agree.

    it is important to realize no matter how we have been affected by anything or anyone, we can still respond responsibly. Those in leadership positions have a greater responsibility as others will follow their lead. Does PFOX have a board of directors that can monitor and temper how the organization is represented?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Yes, PFOX does have but to my knowledge it is not public.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Mary,

    The J &Y study was only completed over a short period of time with a selected group of people. Holding it out as the end all and be all of change in sexual attraction change is hardly science or definitive proof since it’s scope was very limited. It is a good study but far from the complete study that is truly needed.

    Quite true. But it’s the best we have to go by so far.

    Warren,

    I just completed a study of same-sex attracted males and the number who say they have changed dramatically over an average of 20 years of marriage is very small, lower than Jones and Yarhouse. The final numbers are not ready to be revealed yet, and the study was not a study of change per se, but we can make some inferences based on our survey.

    I look forward to reading your observations

    Ann

    I can also see how desperate one can get and how that can lead them to believe whatever brings them relief.

    Wise words which apply to all sides of the current cultural divide and on almost any divisive issue.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Warren,

    Let me offer a couple observations.:

    The ONN editors recently added a note pointing out the 71% figure from the CDC fact sheet.

    I don’t think that is correct. Actually, ONN offered a different “statistic”:

    In June of 2007 the Centers for Disease Control stated that homosexual sex accounted for 71 percent of all HIV infections. [emphasis mine]

    They extrapolated the percentage of men contracting HIV through MSM to apply to women as well. The real number is about half of all HIV infections is by means of MSM (as you noted).

    To give perspective, supposing that they were to use the figures for women and claim it represented all HIV cases. In that case, there would be NO transmission s via gay sex, but that about 2/3 are via heterosexual sex (the CDC site is down at the moment so I can’t give accurate numbers).

    Also,

    I think that your total population living with AIDS is perhaps not the best representation of what we are talking about. It only includes those who have been diagnosed with AIDS and not just those who are HIV infected. We estimate that larger population to be about one million in the US, up to a quarter of whom have not been tested (often in the minority heterosexual population).

  • Ann

    Does the Associated Press article dated 8/3 help clarify any of this? I can send the link again if needed. It is titled – CDC underestimated new HIV cases by 40%. It breaks down the statistics by age, gender, etc. catagories.

  • jayhuck

    My initial point was that it would have been great when I was a young person in high school or even junior high, to have a gay group – a place to go and be around others like myself instead of feeling afraid and like I was the only gay person in the whole school. Regina and PFOX don’t realize how beneficial such groups could be to kids. Instead, they – PFOX – would rather demonize it and use, as Warren said, exaggeration and hyperbole to drive home an agenda.

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    Ann,

    Thanks. I could have checked the article.

    The CDC site’s back up so I was able to find better numbers.

    If I were to behave like AFA’s OneNewsNow (ONN) and use only women (they quoted only the figure for me), I could proclaim:

    In August of 2008 the Centers for Disease Control stated that heterosexual sex accounted for 80 percent of all HIV infections

    But, of course, that would not be very admirable of honest of me.


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