Anyone is at risk of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, a new study found that the disease's frequency rate is most dire among men who engage in homosexual sex in the southern part of the United States.

Findings showed that three out of 10 gay men in many Southern U.S. cities are diagnosed with HIV.

The cities with high HIV rates among gay men are El Paso in Texas, Baton Rouge in Louisiana and Augusta in Georgia. Notably, Jackson, Mississippi has the highest diagnosed HIV rate, with four out of 10 gay men infected.

The research team found that out of 25 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with the most number of men who have sex with men (MSM) HIV patients, 21 are from the south.

The analysis was conducted by a group of researchers from the Rollins School of Public Health at the Emory University in Georgia.

According to a 2015 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MSM make up 67 percent of all newly documented HIV cases in 2013. The rate was disproportionately high despite the demographic covering only 2 percent of the entire American population.

Surveillance data showed that MSM covers a high percentage of HIV patients, as well as in yearly HIV diagnoses. However, the new report provided a new perspective.

"Our analyses are the first to present HIV rates among MSM broken down by states, counties, and metropolitan statistical areas," said Eli Rosenberg, Ph.D., research leader and an epidemiology assistant professor at Rollins.

The new report can provide local and regional health groups more evidence and additional tools to improve HIV prevention initiatives among MSM, especially the ones living in Southern U.S. cities.

"To stop the spread of HIV in the U.S., we have to understand how, where, and among whom the epidemic is striking the hardest," said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, a CDC director for the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

The team used the CDC's HIV surveillance data as well as other CDC studies to compute the disease's frequency rates per city. The team also utilized a recently published MSM population estimate report by epidemiologist Jeremy A. Grey, Ph.D. from the Rollins School of Public Health.

The report was published in the JMIR Public Health and Surveillance on May 17.

Photo: Samuel Johnson | Flickr

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