It has been over two decades since the HIV/AIDS epidemic became a national concern, and although in most communities the annual infection rate has been falling, New York City’s young gay population doesn’t seem to be part of the trend.

The NY State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has released new statistics about HIV/AIDS demographics, and the news is alarming for the gay population.

The New York Times reports rates of new infection of HIV rose 32 percent in the five-year period from 2001-2006 among young gay men of all demographics.

For black and Hispanic minorities the rate is even higher, and health officials speculate that similar trends are affecting the rest of the country.

While HIV infection and AIDS related deaths have been on a steady decline in the city overall, researchers believe that higher rates of drug use among younger men who have sex with men, and optimism that AIDS can be readily treated, are the primary reasons the gay community has veer away from the national trend.

The New York Post also recently reported that “the rates of infection for men ages 13-19 has doubled” over the past few years.

Columnist John Mikytuk commented: “A quarter-century after the first AIDS diagnosis sent a chill through the gay community and transformed its culture, the threat of catastrophic illness still exists for gay men having unprotected sex.”

“It’s really unconscionable that we haven’t had a decrease in new infections in the past decade in the United States,” Wafaa El-Sadr, chief of infectious diseases at Harlem Hospital Centre, told the New York Times.

“It’s not anymore in the headlines; many people think it’s gone away, and it hasn’t gone away.”

New York City has implemented sex educational programmes for the gay community and have even created a state condom that is available to help promote safe sex, but officials fear that lack of education in the school system and higher rates of drug use are combating their efforts.

For now, health officials are pushing to have more rapid tests available and urge everyone to get tested.

Dylan Vox © 2007 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved.