Although AIDS infections are more common among black and Latino intravenous drug users than their white counterparts, New York researchers Thursday said a study has found that minorities share needles less frequently and may be becoming infected some other way.
Dr. Lawrence Brown Jr. of Harlem Hospital and Columbia University in New York called for further studies into ethnic differences among drug abusers to determine how best to combat acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
"Needle sharing alone may not explain the distribution of HIV infection . . . " Brown wrote in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Assn. "Other aspects of drug abuse behavior or life style may contribute."
He and his colleagues based their findings on a study of 241 intravenous drug abusers entering addiction treatment in New York. Overall, 61% were infected with HIV, the AIDS virus, and 70% acknowledged sharing needles. Those who admitted needle sharing were 1.5 times more likely to be infected.
However, 82% of whites reported sharing needles, and only 56% were infected. Among minorities, only 68% said they shared needles, and 62%, a higher percentage than among whites, were infected. The researchers would not speculate on what might account for the difference.
In a related development, health authorities said two patients in Phoenix became infected with the AIDS virus after receiving kidney transplants from a patient who died from accident injuries.
A surgeon said the organ donor was not in a high-risk category for AIDS and did not test positive for it. Federal health officials said the test may have been negative because AIDS antibodies in the donor's blood had been diluted by more than a dozen transfusions, the Phoenix Gazette reported. His kidneys went to a Japanese man in Phoenix and to a patient in Georgia.
Two Phoenix eye patients received cornea transplants from the same donor but have not developed any signs of the AIDS virus, their doctor said.
A Virginia patient who received a valve from the donor's heart has not yet been tested for AIDS.