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HIV rates in U.S. black women much higher than thought

March 08, 2012|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • In some parts of the US, HIV infection rates are much higher among black women than suspected.
In some parts of the US, HIV infection rates are much higher among black women… (Bruce K Huff / For the Times )

HIV infection rates among black women in some parts of the United States are similar to the incidence seen in sub-Saharan Africa, researchers reported Thursday.

The study found a rate of HIV infection of 0.24% in a group of almost 2,100 women, most of whom were black. That rate is five times higher than previous estimates issued by the federal government.

The high infection rate was found in six geographic areas that are known to be hard hit by the HIV epidemic and where poverty is more common. The six areas studied were in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Newark, N.J., Harlem (New York City) and Wake County, N.C.

The data come from the important ISIS study (The Women’s HIV Seroincidence Study), which was undertaken after previous research showed black women account for 66% of new HIV cases in the country yet make up just 14% of the population.

Black women have 20 times the rate of HIV infection among white women and four times the rate among Latinas. HIV and AIDS are a leading cause of death among U.S. black women. Some women do not know they are infected. In the study, 1.5% of the women found out they had HIV only when they enrolled in the study.

“We have known that black women in the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by HIV, however, the magnitude of this disparity in areas hardest hit by the HIV epidemic underscores the gravity of the problem,” the lead author of the study, Dr. Sally Hodder, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School, said in a news release.

The study was presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.

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