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Blacks with HIV/AIDS

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(NNPA) — The number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is 40 percent higher than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been reporting each year, new figures released recently have shown.

According to the CDC, approximately 56,300 new HIV infections occurred in the United States in 2006. The previous estimate had been 40,000 new infections per year.

“It’s important to note that the new estimate does not represent an actual increase in the number of new infections, but reflects our ability to more precisely measure HIV incidence and secure a better understanding of the epidemic,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

“This new picture reveals that the HIV epidemic is — and has been — worse than previously known and underscores the challenges in confronting this disease,” Fenton said.

The study shows that HIV has the greatest impact among African-Americans and gay and bisexual men of all races.

“The rate of new infections among non-Hispanic Blacks was seven times as high as that among whites in 2006 (83.7 versus 11.5 new infections per 100,000 population),” the CDC said. “Blacks also accounted for the largest share of new infections (45 percent, or 24,900). Historical trends data show that the number of new infections among Blacks peaked in the late 1980s and has exceeded the number of infections in whites since that time.”

The CDC acknowledged what activists have been saying all along: More concentrated prevention efforts are needed if the virus is ever going to be contained among African-Americans.

“The continued severity of the epidemic among Blacks underscores the need to sustain and accelerate prevention efforts in this population,” the CDC said. “While race itself is not a risk factor for HIV infection, a range of issues contribute to the disproportionate HIV risk for African-Americans in the U.S., including poverty, stigma, higher rates of other STDs, and drug use,” the CDC said.

Gays and bisexual men — referred to as men who have sex with men (MSM) — represented a significantly greater proportion of new infections in 2006 than any other group.

“MSM accounted for 53 percent (28,700) of estimated new HIV infections in 2006,” CDC reported. “CDC’s historical trend analysis indicates that HIV incidence has been increasing steadily among gay and bisexual men, confirming a trend suggested by other data showing increases in risk behavior, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV diagnosis in this population.”

Heterosexuals accounted for 31 percent of new HIV infections in 2006.

CDC said it was able to come up with the new figures showing greater incidences of HIV by using new technology that allows them to pinpoint when a person was actually infected with HIV.

In the past, the agency could only determine when a person was diagnosed, which could have been years after the infection.

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