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CDC: Nonwhites more likely to contract HIV

LAWRENCEVILLE - Hispanics and blacks are more likely to receive an HIV diagnosis than whites, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said after analyzing data collected from 33 states over a three-year span.

The rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections among blacks has dropped an average of 5 percent annually for the past three years, but blacks are still eight times as likely as whites to contract the lethal virus, the report said.

While race itself is not a factor in contracting HIV, there are other factors that contribute, said Jennifer Ruth, a spokeswoman for the CDC in Atlanta.

"Poverty, drug use and high rates of STDs can place many African-Americans at an increased risk," Ruth said. "Economic disparities can lead to risk behavior like trading sex for money, food and drugs."

The report also listed Hispanics as three times more likely than whites to be diagnosed with HIV.

"These high rates could be (a result of) the language barrier," Ruth said. Other factors could be that Hispanics have less access to health care, testing and treatment, which, over an extended period of time, can lead to unresolved health issues, Ruth said.

Meanwhile, the rate of new diagnoses among homosexual men regardless of race comprises the highest HIV diagnoses in the three-year span.

Homosexual men make up 44 percent of HIV diagnoses made between 2001 and 2004. Ruth said syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, is prevalent in the gay community and can contribute to quicker HIV progression in the body.

"We know that when a person has an STD it makes it easier to transmit HIV and receive HIV because HIV will come to a sore or opening, (which) provides an

outlet for it," Ruth said.

Overall, the number of HIV diagnoses fell slightly from 2001 to 2004, driven largely by declines among injection-drug users.

"Reducing the toll among men and African-Americans will require a diverse and comprehensive approach," Ruth said. "There is no single solution to complex factors like stigma, racism, poverty, homophobia and substance abuse."

The new data reflects information obtained from states with 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, Ruth said. Georgia was not included in the survey because the state did not practice name-based reporting between 2001 and 2004.