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Young blacks hit
hard by HIV

Young blacks hit
hard by HIV

New estimates based on a random sample of more than 13,000 young people ages 19-24 show that non-Hispanic blacks are 20 times more likely to be infected with HIV compared with other racial and ethnic groups. The participants agreed to be tested for HIV as part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health.

Overall, the HIV infection rate for young U.S. adults is one case per 1,000 people. That rate jumps to 4.9 per 1,000 for blacks, compared with 0.22 per 1,000 for all other races of similar age, the report found.

While HIV prevalence among young adults in the United States appears to be relatively low, the racial disparity in prevalence "is large and established early in life," said Martina Morris, a sociologist at the University of Washington-Seattle and lead author of the report. "The size of the differential was much larger than we expected, especially for this age group," she said.

The current findings parallel racial disparities for other sexually transmitted diseases. For example, gonorrhea rates among black youth are approximately 17 times higher, and syphilis rates are 12 times higher.

Researchers speculate that because non-Hispanic blacks are more likely to have concurrent partnerships, or overlapping sexual partners, this may contribute to the spread of disease. "A number of studies have shown that concurrent partnerships increase the connectivity of a transmission network, allowing for faster and more pervasive spread of infection," said Morris. "Bottom line: Prevention research should focus on how to reduce the level of concurrent partnerships," she said. (Reuters)

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