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Study shows high
HIV risk among L.A. gang members

Study shows high
HIV risk among L.A. gang members

Gang members have high rates of unprotected sex, low levels of HIV awareness.

The estimated 39,000 gang members in the Los Angeles area are at high risk of HIV infection because of a combination of widespread unprotected sex and a lack of knowledge about how to prevent HIV infection, according to a study reported in the Los Angeles Times. A survey of about 300 gang members showed that 90% reported having unprotected sex during the past year, 31% incorrectly believed that a vaccine existed that could prevent HIV infections, and 91% believed they and their communities needed more education about HIV. Of 150 gang members surveyed who also consented to HIV antibody tests, one tested positive for infection.

The study was one of the first in the United States to focus on gang members.

"We were stunned--amazed--that nobody's looked at this before," Stephen Simon, the city's AIDS coordinator, told the Times. "Here's a high-risk population that obviously engages in high-risk behavior, one that is uninformed and realizes it's uninformed, and there is no data on this population."

Few groups are working to reach gang members with HIV prevention information, according to the Times. One that is reaching out to gang members, the Minority AIDS Project, is headed by Victor McKamie, a former gang member who coordinates efforts to distribute condoms to gang members and who has produced a rap song about HIV. (The Advocate)

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