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Health and medicine

Drop in HIV cases among blacks doesn't offset infection disparity

By wire services
Published November 18, 2005

ATLANTA - The rate of newly reported HIV cases among blacks has been dropping by about 5 percent a year since 2001, the government said Thursday. But blacks are still eight times more likely than whites to be diagnosed with the virus that causes AIDS.

"Overall, new HIV diagnoses continue to disproportionately and severely impact African-Americans, both men and women," said Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention. "This is not new, but it is critical that we not become complacent."

The falling rate among blacks seems to be tied to overlapping drops in diagnoses among injection drug users and heterosexuals, the CDC said.

The new data reflects information obtained in 2004 from 33 states that have name-based reporting of HIV infections and AIDS cases, in which each case is identified by the actual name of the patient, not by a code number. Name-based reporting is thought to be more accurate.

Florida, New York and Texas had the highest number of diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS in 2004.

At least part of the decline among blacks appears to be tied to a 9 percent annual decline in diagnoses among injection drug users, who can get the virus from contaminated needles. More than half of the drug users were black, said Lisa Lee, a CDC epidemiologist. The decline is also linked to a 4 percent decline in diagnoses among heterosexuals. About 69 percent of the heterosexuals diagnosed with HIV were black.

Diagnoses among men who have sex with men remained roughly stable from 2001 to 2003 but climbed 8 percent between 2003 and 2004. That was true for men of all races, CDC officials said. But they could not explain the recent increase.

Another CDC report issued earlier this month showed a 29 percent rise in syphilis infections among those men over the last four years, suggesting an increase in high-risk sexual activity.

The new report contains data from New York for the first time and thus is not directly comparable to previous reports, Valdiserri noted. New York accounts for about 20 percent of the new HIV diagnoses in the report, according to Lee.

In those 33 states, 38,685 Americans - 71 percent of them male - were diagnosed with HIV in 2004, down from 41,207 in 2001.

About 18,000 Americans die of AIDS each year. The CDC estimates that about 900,000 are currently infected with the virus, but about a quarter of them do not know it. The virus is believed to have killed about half a million Americans since 1981.

Information from the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

[Last modified November 18, 2005, 01:29:09]

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