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Official Says "Down Low" Men Not Responsible for High HIV Rates Among Black Women

October 15, 2009

Heterosexual black men with multiple sex partners -- not bisexual men who secretly have sex with men -- are responsible for high rates of HIV among black women, according to a senior CDC official.

"We have looked to see what proportion of infections is coming from male partners who are bisexual and found there are actually relatively few," said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. "More are male partners who are having female partners and are injecting drugs or using drugs or have some other risks that may put those female partners at risk of acquiring HIV."

Black women make up 61 percent of all new HIV cases among women in the United States and have an HIV prevalence rate nearly 18 times that of white women. HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death for black women ages 25-34, and 80 percent of new cases are contracted through heterosexual contact.

"What we're seeing is a concentration of the epidemic among the poor, among ethnic minorities and racial minorities in the United States," Fenton said.

Even among gay men, blacks are disproportionately affected by the disease. For gay and bisexual men, new HIV infections among blacks and Hispanics outnumber those among white gay men, Fenton said.

The spread of HIV/AIDS among African-American teenagers concerns health officials. Black teenagers account for 69 percent of new cases among those ages 13-19, while making up only 13 percent of the nation's teenage population overall.

The CDC in May launched the Act Against AIDS campaign to reduce HIV incidence in the United States, and it will especially address HIV among African Americans. As part of the campaign, CDC established five-year partnerships with 14 national black organizations. The initiative includes grants to organizations to hire AIDS coordinators and carry out AIDS outreach efforts.

Back to other news for October 2009

Adapted from:
10.07.2009; George E. Curry

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
More on HIV and the "Down Low"


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