March 9, 2012
Baltimore is one of the six US cities where African-American women have an HIV infection rate five times the national average for this population, researchers said Thursday at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle. The cities' annual rate of 24 new HIV infections per 10,000 black women compares with 28 per 10,000 in the Congo.
"This is why it's important to remind people that this is going on right here in our hometown," said Dr. Charles Flexner, the study's lead investigator at Johns Hopkins University. "Given what's going on in Baltimore, it's hard to be too aggressive with this."
Baltimore recently enacted a plan to cut new infections by 25 percent by 2015. However, as men make up two-thirds of new HIV diagnoses, much of the city's resources go to target them, said Dr. Patrick Chaulk, assistant commissioner for HIV/STD services at Baltimore's Health Department. On Thursday, CDC and city health organizations launched "Testing Makes Us Stronger," a campaign targeting several US cities that encourages gay and bisexual men to learn their HIV status.
Baltimore efforts targeting women include programs aimed at drug users and sex workers, among others, Chaulk said. Every week, a city project deploys a mobile unit to "the Block" -- Baltimore's red-light district -- to test for HIV/STDs, offer reproductive health services and needle exchange, and assist with health insurance and housing. Last year, the program tested 4,660 women for HIV, including 3,362 African-American women, the city reported.
Barriers to HIV prevention and testing among African-American women include gender inequality, lack of health insurance and addiction treatment access, and disease stigma and fear of disclosing HIV status to family and partners, said patient-advocates and experts.
03.08.2012; Meredith Cohn
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