June 27, 2003
Black and Hispanic women are being infected with HIV at a higher rate than the rest of the population in part because many of them do not know their sex partners are bisexual, according to a study conducted by the Michigan Department of Community Health and CDC. "This is not a myth," said study leader Eve Mokotoff, chief of HIV/AIDS epidemiology at the state health agency. "We interviewed these men and this is very real. What underlies this problem is our unacceptance of homosexuality."
The study, to be published later this year, found that 34 percent of black men said they engaged in bisexual behavior, followed by 26 percent of Hispanic men and 13 percent of white men. Of the HIV-positive women studied, 14 percent of white women knew their partner engaged in bisexual behavior, but only 6 percent of black and Hispanic women knew of such behavior by their partners.
The AIDS CARE study found that disparity in awareness helps account for the rapid spread of HIV in the black community. "Communities of color are facing a severe and grave public health crisis," said Carol Bernard, communications director for the National Minority AIDS Council in Washington. "We could potentially see a situation like some of the African countries if this epidemic reaches such a high level."
Besides being aware of their partners' sexual behavior -- and demanding proof that they have been tested -- black women must stop knowingly sharing men and educate themselves on HIV prevention, said Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles.
The AIDS CARE Study used data from state health departments in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina and Washington. Researchers also interviewed men and women in Los Angeles County.