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HIV Spreading in New York City at About Three Times the National Rate, Study Finds

August 28, 2008

HIV is spreading in New York City at about three times the national rate, with an incidence of 72 new HIV infections per 100,000 people, compared with 23 new infections per 100,000 people nationwide, according to a study released Wednesday by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York Times reports (Chan, New York Times, 8/28).

The study's findings are based on a new HIV testing method developed by CDC that can determine when an HIV infection occurred. Previous data did not distinguish recent infections from those that occurred years earlier, according to the health department. About 100,000 New York residents are living with HIV, health officials said (Honan, Reuters, 8/27). According to the study, 4,762 New York residents contracted HIV in 2006 (New York Times, 8/28). Health officials attributed the higher rate of new HIV infections in the city to large populations of blacks, men who have sex with men and other high-risk groups (AP/, 8/27). According to the health department, it is unclear whether the number of new infections that occurred in the city in 2006 had increased or decreased over previous years because the testing method is new.

According to the study, men accounted for 76% of new HIV infections while women accounted for 25%. Blacks accounted for 46% of new infections, Hispanics for 32% and whites for 21%. Whites living in the city contracted HIV at four times the national rate, Hispanics at three times the national rate, and blacks in the city contracted the virus at almost twice the national rate. The study found that 4% of new infections were among people younger than age 20, while people ages 20 to 29 accounted for 24% of new infections. People ages 30 to 39 and those ages 40 to 49 each accounted for 29% of new infections, while people older than age 50 accounted for 15%. People younger than age 30 accounted for 28% of new infections in New York City, compared with 41% nationwide.

The primary mode of HIV transmission was sex between men, which accounted for 50% of new infections. High-risk heterosexual sex accounted for 22% of new infections, and injection drug use accounted for 8%. The mode of transmission was unknown in 18% of new cases, the study found (New York Times, 8/28).

In addition, the study found that blacks living in the city contracted HIV at three times the rate of whites and that blacks accounted for almost half of new infections (Reuters, 8/27). Of new HIV infections among MSM younger than age 30, 77% occurred in black and Hispanic men. Black and Hispanic MSM ages 30 to 50 also accounted for 59% of new infections among MSM in that age group (New York Times, 8/28).

Assistant Health Commissioner Monica Sweeney said the study's findings reinforce the need to continue promoting HIV testing and prevention throughout the city (AP/, 8/27). The department in a statement added that "even a rough gauge of HIV incidence is a valuable tool for understanding -- and combating -- the spread of HIV." The department said that by using the same testing method in future years, "researchers may be able to discern increases and decreases [in HIV incidence] over time and target prevention efforts accordingly" (New York Times, 8/28).

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