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Blacks' HIV Risk Dramatically Higher Than Whites Despite Safer Sex Lives Due to Higher rate of STDs Among Young African-American Adults, Study Reports
 
 
  By PIRE
Dec 4, 2006, 07:13
 
Blacks' HIV Risk Dramatically Higher Than Whites Despite Safer Sex Lives
 
Population-wide prevention is vital, study suggests

 
(HealthNewsDigest.com).. CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Young black adults are far more likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV, than young white adults, even when they engage in the same or even safer behavior, according to research released Thursday.
 
The study, electronically published by the American Journal of Public Health, found that African-Americans ages 18-26 years engaging in low-risk behavior - no sex in the past year and little or no alcohol and drug use - are nearly 25 times more likely to be infected than whites engaging in the same behavior. Young African-Americans who have few sex partners and low alcohol and drug use in a year are seven times more likely to be infected than whites with the behavior.
 
The survey of 8,706 participants found that young African-American adults generally engage less in risky behavior that could result in the transmission of STDs. Additionally, condom use among blacks is above 50 percent, while it's only one-third for young whites. However, because the prevalence of STDs is so much higher among young African-American adults, the risk of coming in contact with someone with an STD is exponentially greater, according to study author Denise Hallfors, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at PIRE Chapel Hill Center.
 
"To combat this disparity, we need a much more aggressive public health strategy to reach all young black adults," Hallfors said. "It's not enough to recommend safe sex and testing for individuals; we need a media campaign aimed at the population that reduces the stigma and encourages young adults to be tested on an annual basis."
 
She said that information, testing and treatment services should be offered through nontraditional venues - in addition to healthcare centers - such as community colleges, churches and beauty salons.
 
The reason why STDs are so prevalent among young African-Americans is not completely clear, Hallfors said. But, it's likely related to the fact that sexual mating practices are largely segregated according to race, whites with whites and blacks with blacks. The low ratio of men to women among African Americans, resulting in a higher crossing of low-risk and high-risk partners, may be creating a "perfect storm" effect that results in very high STD and HIV rates, she said.
 
"Most STDs can be cured, and the spread of HIV can be reduced through prompt diagnosis and treatment," Hallfors said. "We have the tools to greatly lower disease rates, but we're not using them effectively in the young adult African American population." wwwPIRE.org
 
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