CDC: Blacks face higher HIV infection rates

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imageJust days ahead of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention offered sobering new statistics about the disparities in HIV infections among racial groups and black men who have gay sex.

Blacks have been disproportionately impacted by HIV since the early days of the epidemic, a fact that hasn’t changed in data from 37 states culled over a three-year period ending in 2008, the federal health agency said on Thursday. Additionally, a study of young black men who have sex with men (MSM) in Milwaukee showed that a dramatic spike in HIV cases was fed in part by HIV-positive people unaware of their status.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, set for Monday, hopes to raise awareness of the impact of HIV on African Americans and to encourage prevention measures, including HIV tests. A Black AIDS Rally is planned for the State Capitol in Atlanta beginning at 9 a.m.

“During 2005–2008, HIV infection was diagnosed more often among black/African American men and women than among men and women of any other racial/ethnic popula¬tion, with rates increasing among black/African American men,” the CDC says.

Though blacks comprise 13.6 percent of the U.S. population, they account for half of the HIV diagnoses across 37 states from 2005-2008. Among blacks living with HIV, men who have sex with men make up the largest group. A recent study of gay, bisexual and other MSM across 21 cities showed that 50 percent of back MSM infected with HIV were not aware of their infection, the CDC says.

Put another way, the estimates of HIV infections in 2006 showed that blacks had a rate of 83.7 per 100,000 people compared to 11.5 for whites. Additionally, 63 percent of new HIV infections among black men were associated with MSM contact.

Also, the CDC says that a study of young black MSM in Milwaukee offers trends that can be applied to other U.S. cities.

A CDC investigation found that the reported increase in HIV diagnoses among young black MSM in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is likely due in part to increased transmission of HIV within this population. CDC and the Wisconsin Division of Public Health conducted the investigation after noting a 144 percent increase in HIV cases among young black MSM, ages 15-29, between 2000 and 2008. Researchers compared HIV and syphilis surveillance and examined trends in HIV testing among young MSM in Milwaukee County from 1999-2001 and 2006-2008. Their analysis found that increases in HIV diagnoses among young black MSM pre-dated statewide intensified testing efforts and that cases found using a new social networks testing strategy were insufficient to account for the rise in HIV diagnoses among young black MSM over the ten-year period. Finally, an increase in syphilis among young black MSM was also noted between 1999-2001 and 2006-2008. Increases in syphilis infections are often considered an early warning for increases in HIV transmission. Investigators suggest that although the report is based on trends within one U.S. city, the findings mirror increases in HIV diagnoses among young black MSM in other areas around the nation and highlight the need for new or improved interventions for young at-risk black MSM.

In October, the CDC said Hispanic men who have sex with men are feeding a rise in HIV infections among Latinos, accounting for more than half of new infections among all Hispanics and nearly three-quarters of HIV cases among Hispanic men.

In September, the CDC said that more than half of the HIV-infected men in Atlanta don’t know they have the disease. In July, Atlanta ranked eighth among the nation’s metro areas in its ratio of HIV infections to overall population.

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