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Free to Be Aware - Confronting HIV Stigma

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African-American adults and adolescents account for almost 51% of new HIV infections in the United States, according to the March 9 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.”

The statistic was derived from data collected between 2001 and 2004 in 33 states that had used names-based reporting of HIV and AIDS cases since 2001. Most new infections are occurring in the 25–44 age group, of which African-Americans accounted for 48%. By population, African-Americans were 13% of the population in the 33 states where data was studied, but they accounted for 50.5% of the new diagnoses. The report stressed that in order to reduce the disproportionate impact of HIV on African-Americans, new interventions and mobilization of the broader community are needed.

New HIV diagnoses among African-American men outpace all other groups. African-American men bear the burden of new HIV infections in the United States, having an infection rate in 2004 seven times higher than white men and more than double the rate of Hispanic men.

Rates of HIV diagnosis, 2004 (per 100,000 population)**
African-American men: 131.6
African-American women: 67.0
Hispanic men: 60.2
Hispanic women: 16.3
American Indian/Alaska Native men: 20.8
American Indian/Alaska Native women: 7.7
White men: 18.7
White women: 3.2
Asian/Pacific Islander men: 13.9
Asian/Pacific Islander women: 4.1

The proportion of women diagnosed with AIDS in California’s Alameda County, which includes Oakland and most of the East San Francisco Bay area, increased from 3% of total cases in the 1980s to 19% in 2004 and 2005, according to public-health data. Nationally, African-American women and Latinas accounted for 82% of women diagnosed with AIDS in 2004, although together they are just one fourth of the U.S. population of women. AIDS is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 25–34.

When young straight men are raised to adhere to traditional gender roles--for example, the belief that husbands should not have to do housework or that women should not do a “man’s job”--they are prone to have unsafe sex with female partners and to inflict violence on them, according to a study published in the July 2006 issue of Journal of Urban Health.

Researchers from the Boston University and Harvard University schools of public health found such men to be twice as likely to have committed violence against their primary sexual partner within the prior year. They were also twice as likely to have had unprotected vaginal sex with their main partners, increasing the women’s risk of HIV infection.

“When [such] ideologies are accepting of male hyper sexuality and female submission to male partners,” says M. Christina Santana, the study’s lead author, “young men’s related risky behaviors will follow.”

The study’s authors conclude that helping young men to reshape their gender role beliefs could be useful in curbing violence against their partners and reducing HIV’s spread to women.

*HIV Plus May/June 2007 issue
**Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
***HIV Plus May/June 2007 issue
****HIV Plus Mar/Apr 2007 issue

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