Treating HIV may require looking at differences between ethnic groups
NADINE STUBBS | 11/29/2012, 3:45 p.m.
As the HIV epidemic progresses, Blacks remain at the forefront, carrying a disproportionate burden. Statistics show a troubling growth in the incidence of HIV in the Black community. In the meantime, there's a continued disregard of differences within the Black community.
Perhaps, the one-size-fits-all approach has led to an ineffective grouping of different ethnic groups and nationalities. To better determine proper intervention methods and to curtail skewed or biased reporting, a more detailed study of the Black population seems necessary. The clustering of ethnicities creates inaccuracies. We need to understand how each group views HIV/AIDS, sexual behavior and drug use, as well as how and why they contract the disease.
In order to grasp the full scope of differences that may exist in the way the epidemic affects African-American and Caribbean communities, we need to understand the factors that influence HIV infection rates within these communities respectively. Factors critical to decreasing the HIV infection rate in each community have not yet been fully understood.
The Caribbean has the highest HIV prevalence in the Americas. Interestingly, West Indian immigrants in New York City are more likely to dwell in racially isolated neighborhoods, where the prevalence of HIV exceeds the national average. In 2008, a study of behaviors and beliefs among Black West Indian immigrants and U.S.-born Blacks found that 23 percent of the newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases were Black New Yorkers who were foreign-born. Among these individuals, 50 percent originally migrated from the Caribbean. These numbers are striking, but little is known about the Caribbean demographic compared to its U.S. counterparts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, in 2009, Blacks made up 14 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for nearly half (44 percent) of all new HIV infections. In addition, 1 in 16 Black men and 1 in 32 Black women are expected to be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetimes. There was a 48 percent increase in new HIV infections from 2006 to 2009 for men who have sex with men between the ages of 13-29. The CDC also reported that Black women are more likely to be affected by HIV through heterosexual contact; the rate is 15 times higher than their white counterparts, and three times that of their Latina counterparts.
Meanwhile, a study of Black-white differences in risky sexual behaviors revealed that Blacks exhibited "an intense anger response to condom use," which contributed to the high prevalence of HIV throughout their communities.
This is a polarizing issue, and it will be difficult to address because members of each group seem likely to resist efforts to distinguish between them. Nonetheless, this deep-rooted issue is alive, and dealing with subgroups of Blacks within the Black community may mean looking at a range of nationalities and ethnicities separately in order to develop the proper intervention.
Nadine Stubbs is a graduate student of public health at Long Island University.