Happy Black Girl News! HIV Rate Among African American Women Declines

December 20, 2012  |  

Though the rates of new HIV infections remain high among black women, there is finally some positive news on this front, as the CDC just found, for the first time, some encouraging news in their latest report: the number of new cases of the disease among African American females is on the decline.

According to the report:

Black women accounted for 13 percent of all new HIV infections in the United States in 2010 and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of all new infections among women. Most black women (87 percent) were infected through heterosexual sex…

Comparing 2008 to 2010, new HIV infections among black women decreased 21 percent, from 7,700 in 2008 to 6,100 in 2010. This decrease contributed to a 21 percent decline in new infections among women
overall during the same time period. Additional years of data will be needed to determine if the decrease among black women is the beginning of a longer-term trend.

We certainly hope additional data will confirm just that, particularly with the CDC still noting that African Americans “continue to bear the greatest burden of HIV in the United States.” In light of this positive news, the rate of new HIV infections among black women in 2010 was still 20 times that of white women and nearly 5 times that of Hispanic women (38.1 v. 1.9 and 8.0 per 100,000, respectively). According to the report, “This [finding] indicates an even greater disparity than shown in CDC’s previous incidence analysis, in which the HIV infection rate among black women was 15 times that of white women and more than 3 times that of Hispanic women.”

Speaking on this news, Joseph Prejean, chief of the Behavioral and Clinical Surveillance Branch in the CDC’s division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in Atlanta, told Reuters:

“We are encouraged to see some declines among African-American women. They’ve been one of the most severely affected populations. We’re cautiously optimistic that this could be part of a longer-term trend.”

In contrast to what is hoped to be a positive trend, researchers are hoping the recent finding about HIV and black gay men is not in fact an inclination of where things are headed with this disease. According to the report:

The rate of new infections among black men was the highest of any group by race and sex — more than six times that of white men (103.6 v. 15.8 per 100,000). The vast majority (72 percent) of infections among black men were among MSM [men who have sex with men].

Of this finding, Prejean said:

“We do realize that many men who have sex with men do probably underestimate their personal risk and believe that treatment advances minimize the health threat.”

For that reason, major interventions are needed in the LGBT community, Michael Ruppal, executive director of The AIDS Institute, said:

“Because gay men account for 66 percent of all new infections, we must increase the focus of our prevention programs for gay men, particularly young and black gay men.”

Here’s to hoping there’s even better news to report on black women and HIV by 2012.

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