Blacks hit hardest by HIV infection among nation's young adults

HIV infection is significantly more common among non-Hispanic blacks than it is among any other young adult racial or ethnic group in the United States, according to the first study drawn from the nation's general youth population.

The infection rate for young non-Hispanic blacks ages 19 to 24 is 4.9 per 1,000 people compared to a rate of 0.22 per 1,000 for all other races. The overall HIV infection rate for young adults was 1 per 1,000, a figure that is lower than other estimates of HIV prevalence that relied on different reporting methods. It also was much lower than reported rates of other sexually transmitted diseases. The HIV infection rate among young adult men was slightly higher than that for young women.

The new study appears in the current issue the American Journal of Public Health and draws on the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health and uses data from more than 13,000 young adults who agreed to be screened for HIV infection.

"The infection rate for non-Hispanic blacks is 20 times greater than the remainder of the population and this disparity begins early in life," said Martina Morris, lead author of the paper and a sociologist who directs the University of Washington's Center for the Studies in Demography and Ecology.

The study differed from previous ones in that it had a large representative sample of young adults and did not rely on data of HIV cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The new study sample included some people who were injection drug-users, in jail and men who have sex with men groups that are known to have higher HIV rates. However, the study was not designed to estimate HIV prevalence in these specific groups.

Morris noted that earlier studies have estimated that half of all HIV infections in the early 1990s were acquired before age 25. However, data from the new study suggest that by 2000 the fraction of infection acquired before age 25 had dipped to between 15 percent

Contact: Joel Schwarz
University of Washington

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