HIV Falls in Black Women as Total Cases Remain at 50,000

HIV infections among black women in the U.S. declined for the first time since U.S. health officials began reporting numbers of new cases from 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The CDC today reported that new HIV infections among black women fell 21 percent in 2010 compared with two years earlier, as total new infections with AIDS virus remained steady at about 50,000 new cases per year during the last decade. Infections among gay and bisexual men increased 22 percent during the same two-year period.

While blacks make up the majority of new HIV infections in women, accounting for 64 percent of female diagnoses, the two- year decrease is an “encouraging trend,” the CDC said in a statement issued with the report. The rise of new cases among gay and bisexual men, who are most often diagnosed with HIV, was “troubling,” the report said. Young, black men who have sex with other men are most at-risk.

“Other studies indicate that individual risk behavior alone does not account for the disproportionate burden of HIV among young” gay and bisexual men, the report said. “Other factors are likely at work.”

Those factors include people with undiagnosed infections, stigma and homophobia, which stop some men from seeking health services, and high rates of STDs, which can make it easier to transmit an HIV infection, the report said.

1.2 Million Infected

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, damages certain blood cells that are important for the immune system’s ability to fight disease. The infection can be asymptomatic for several years.

About 1.2 million people in the U.S. are currently infected. Of these, about 20 percent to 25 percent are unaware of their status. In November, the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force issued a draft recommendation that everyone ages 15 to 65 should be screened at least once for the virus.

The CDC used the two-year comparison data to get a clear picture of trends, which may not be obvious in year-to-year statistics, Salina Cranor, a CDC spokeswoman, said. The data from 2007 appeared to be anomalous, overestimating HIV prevalence compared with the previous and subsequent years, so the investigators didn’t use it. The next adequate point of comparison was 2008, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in New York at elopatto@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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