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HIV Rate for Black Women Higher than Previously Thought

By HERWriter Blogger
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A study by a team of national experts found that in several "hotspots" around the United States, the HIV rate among African American women is five times more than the rate the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates.

The HIV rate for the sample group in this study, led by Sally Hodder, MD from the Newark-New Jersey Medical School, is comparable to the rate in sub-Saharan African countries like Kenya and Congo.

The geographical "hotspots" the seven-year study (2002-2009) focused on were in areas known for higher HIV rates and above-average poverty. The rate of HIV found in these areas was unexpectedly higher than what would have been expected in a developed country like the US.

Even though only 14 percent of all U.S. females are African-American, they account for nearly two-thirds of all new female HIV infections in the United States.

Out of all the new HIV infections reported each year, about 25 percent
occur in women. What's even more disconcerting is that the death rate for HIV-infected African American women is 15 times what it is for Caucasian women infected with the disease.

The reasons behind the startling rates are many and varied, but could be influenced by lack of HIV education and poverty-related issues. The Centers for Disease Control have isolated several key factors in the African American community as HIV prevention challenges.

The challenges are as follows:

1. African Americans tend to have sex with other African Americans, and since the overall HIV rate is high for this community, the fact that they have sex with each other increases their risk of HIV infection with each sexual partner.

2. African Americans have a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases then other racial communities in the United States. Some of these STDs increase the likelihood of both contracting HIV and of infecting others.

3. Poverty, and the socio-economic conditions that go along with it, can directly and indirectly increase the rate of HIV infection. Having access to high-quality health care, HIV education programs, and adequate housing can affect the health of those who are already infected with HIV and those at risk of contracting it.

4. In the African American community, people are not aware of their HIV status. This lack of awareness can translate into a late diagnosis which means the possibility of more transmission of the disease as well as decreased opportunities for early medical intervention.

5. There is a stigma in the African American community regarding HIV and HIV testing. The fear and homophobia in the community can keep people away from testing and counseling facilities.

Though there are not any surefire ways to prevent the higher rates of HIV in Black women, Dr. Hodder and her team did create a working model to offer several solutions to curb this epidemic.

They believe a four-pronged approach would work best, consisting of:

1. Expanding HIV testing

2. Finding ways to reduce the time between when one is infected with HIV and when he/she is tested for the disease

3. Finding ways to curb the drop-out rate from HIV/AIDS treatment programs

4. Create treatments to better suppress viral loads in HIV infected patients

No matter why this rate is so high, it is clear that health care, government, and nonprofit agencies need to focus on this community or one can expect the rates to increase.


CDC.gov. Web. 12 March 12, 2012. “HIV among African Americans.” http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/aa

MedicalNewsToday.com. Web. Published 11 March 2012. “More HIV among Black Women then Previously Thought, USA.” http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/242762.php

Reviewed March 13, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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