Black women in Atlanta show surprising HIV rates

Print Friendly and PDF By: Deesha Patel Published: Apr 5, 2012

A new study has found HIV rates for black women in Atlanta and five other U.S. cities are higher than previously thought.

The study found that the HIV rate was 0.24 percent for the 2,099 women in its cohort. This is five times higher than the rate estimated for black women by the CDC.

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, damages a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells that are important to help fight diseases. It is the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, though not everyone with HIV develops the full-scale disease.

The CDC estimates that 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV.

The study, called the HPTN 064 Women’s HIV Seroincidence Study (ISIS), enrolled women, ages 18 to 44 years, from 10 community sites in six areas where HIV and poverty are common: Atlanta; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Newark, N.J.; and New York City.
Emory University served as the study site for Atlanta. With the help of community partners SisterLove, AID Atlanta, and Stand Inc., Emory enrolled 418 of the women in the study.

Women were enrolled if they had not had a prior positive HIV test.

Notably, the 0.24 percent rate in this study is comparable to the general HIV rates in sub-Saharan Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (0.28 percent) and Kenya (0.53 percent). HIV is a major public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa, and the study suggests that it remains a major health concern for certain subpopulations in the U.S.

“This study highlights the fact that HIV is still a problem in this country, particularly for those who are disproportionately impacted by the disease, including African-American women,’’ said one of the study’s principal investigators at Emory, Paula Frew, an assistant professor of medicine.

“Importantly, it draws attention to the disparities that cluster together – poverty, race, and illness – and that we as a society must address these issues together to alleviate the burden of HIV/AIDS in the future,” Frew said.

The women were interviewed about many aspects of their lives, including mental health, sexual behavior and financial insecurity. Frew said the investigators will also examine the non-HIV data collected.

Women were enrolled in the study between May 2009 and July 2010.

The ISIS study was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health.


Deesha Patel is a second-year Master of Public Health student at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. She is interested in health journalism and medical writing as well as epidemiologic research.


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  • Poetee

    Amazing wh it was in 2005 that I did my skit/ play Stories of HIV, and the statistics of infection among Black females continues to climb.
    The education is there as I discovered when doing my clinical sand the activist asked me what was my opinion for the high incidence in this particular race. My answer was education and she said, it was culture because who has not heard of the disease, howit affects the human body, how it is contracted etc. she went on to say mene who have sex with other women and men said they would love to use protection, but they will be bombarded with having to answer why they had to use a barrier?
    So you see unless more Black women are proactive in a change in culture, this will continue to affect our people.
    If anyone is interested in helping me by having their drama group at thier church do the skit/play, please contact me. It is Christin based and educational and real that women from all age groups can identify. Thank you

  • Pingback: World AIDS Day – 10 Georgia AIDS & HIV Stats that May Surprise You | Saint Joseph's Hospital Media Room

  • Bill

    This is false research. Please end this hatred towards black woman. HIV is a complete fraud. There are plenty of other disease that are immunedefficiencies. HIV does not cause aids. If you disagree show me proof of evidence. Hiv is a man made disease to target certain people in this society. Its really pathetic and ungodly to pin point just one race out of many.


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