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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

UNITED STATES: HIV Poses a Community Risk for Blacks


ABC News (02.19.10) - Friday, February 26, 2010

HIV prevalence among US blacks is so significant that focusing on high-risk groups within the community leaves the majority unaware of their risk, warned a report presented at the recent 17th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. African Americans account for 12 percent of the population but half of US HIV cases.

"Part of our challenge is that a lot of the black community has not perceived itself to be at risk based upon the evolution of how we understood risk of HIV in the United States," said Dr. Kimberly Smith of Chicago's Rush University Medical Center. "If we start to focus on this as a community challenge rather than focusing on individual risks, then that may move us in the right direction." Smith noted new research showing HIV rates in US cities with large black populations are comparable to and sometimes exceed those reported in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, the HIV rate in Washington, D.C., is 3 percent (6 percent among black men) and reaches nearly 14 percent among MSM in New York City.

African-American HIV mortality rates reveal a similar disparity, with an eight-fold excess risk for black men and 20-fold for black women. Smith cited several factors that contribute to this gap, including late diagnosis, poor access to care, poor response and adherence to treatment once it is initiated, and the fact that up to 20 percent of HIV-infected black people never see an HIV provider until at least five years after diagnosis.

"While we've made great strides in developing interventions and targeting individual risk behavior, the bottom line is that behavioral change programs are not enough to get ahead of the curve," said CDC's Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

Fenton noted that only 16 percent of US residents with HIV have private insurance, and 62 percent are unemployed.


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Information in this article was accurate in February 26, 2010. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.