A sobering new report released earlier this month by a North Carolina-based think tank shows that the rate of HIV/AIDS infection for African-American women in certain parts of the country is significantly higher than indicated in previous studies.
The HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) released the HPTN 064 Women’s HIV Seroincidence Study in early March, which found an HIV incidence of nearly 0.24 percent for African-American women. This figure is five times higher than was reported in a similar report released earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
“Despite prevention efforts in the last 30 years, the reality is that we still have ongoing HIV transmission in the U.S. that requires focusing prevention efforts,” said Sally Hodder, a physician at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and New Jersey Medical School in Newark. Hodder was the lead researcher of the study.
She added, “We have known that Black women in the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by HIV; however, the magnitude of this disparity in areas hardest hit by the HIV epidemic underscores the gravity of the problem.”
Hodder said the study recruited participants from regions of the country with an overall higher incidence of HIV/AIDS and places where harsh socioeconomic conditions are prevalent. The areas included New York City; Newark, N.J.; Baltimore; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta.
Terms of study included enrolling African-American women without a prior positive HIV test. Another interesting aspect of the study was the high number of women who had been previously unaware of their HIV status when they enrolled in the study but later learned of their infection later.
One woman who has been living with the virus for more than 25 years is Harlem native Pat Kelly. Kelly now lives in Orangeburg, S.C., and is an active proponent of several HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives.
Regarding the recent study and the increase in the number of African-American women living with HIV/AIDS, Kelly, who describes herself as a “conqueror of the disease,” said, “People need to be aware that despite medical advancements, HIV/AIDS is still a disease that is very much active in the African-American community and for women. By knowing your status, taking your meds and remaining active and upbeat, you can survive HIV.”
Kim Hunter echoed her sentiment. Hunter is a manager at the Office of Women’s Health at Hyacinth AIDS Foundation in Newark, one of the “hot spots” included in the study. She has been living with the virus since 1988.
Hunter offered this simple advice to other women of color living with HIV/AIDS: “Don’t wait to fight for life. You can live a long, healthy and productive life, despite having the virus. HIV is a manageable disease.”
To view the results of the HPTN 064 Women’s HIV Seroincidence Study, visit www.hptn.org.