HIV Rates Among Black Women In Cities Higher Than Previously Thought

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An HIV test.

Black women in some cities, including D.C., are five times more likely to contract HIV than the average black woman in the United States. That’s according to a recently released study conducted in six cities and funded by the National Institutes for Health.

Researchers focused on six HIV “hotspots:” D.C., Baltimore, New York City, Newark, N.J., Atlanta and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. In these communities, 24 black women in every 10,000 is infected with HIV annually. Nationally, the annual HIV-infection rate is 5 in every 10,000 black women.

The new data, which shows higher infection rates than previously thought, came as a surprise to scientists working in the field, including AIDS experts at Johns Hopkins University who assisted with the study.

“While we have always known that African Americans had a higher risk of HIV infection than other American racial groups, this study confirms it and underscores the severity of the national and local problem, especially in cities,” study site leader and professor Anne Rompalo is quoted as saying in a Johns Hopkins University press release.

More than 3 percent of D.C. residents are living with HIV or AIDS, according to the D.C. Department of Health [PDF]. Rates are highest in Wards 8, 6 and 5. In recent years, much attention in the field has been placed on young black gay and bisexual men, for whom HIV rates are rapidly rising. But this new study shows that infection rates are still high for black women.

The Los Angeles Times cites a number of reasons behind the high infection rate among black women, including a reluctance to get tested because of the stigma associated with having HIV, lacking health insurance and women not putting their own health concerns first.