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.