Hampton Roads ranks near the top for certain STDs among U.S. metropolitan areas, according to a 2010 CDC report. It ranked second-highest for chlamydia reports and third for gonorrhea, while Eastern Virginia has the state's highest proportion of residents with HIV/AIDS.
"We have a significant local epidemic," said Dr. Edward Oldfield, director of Eastern Virginia Medical School's infectious-disease division. Engaging in unprotected sex therefore is riskier in Hampton Roads than in many other parts of the nation, said Oldfield, director of nine area HIV clinics.
Oldfield said these clinics see about one new HIV diagnosis per day. With sites in Williamsburg, Gloucester County, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake, the clinics treat about 2,000 patients total.
Of state HIV diagnoses in 2009, black residents comprised about 62 percent. Between 2005 and 2009, black residents made up 76 percent of gonorrhea reports, 63 percent of syphilis diagnoses, and 55 percent of chlamydia cases, according to the state health department.
Norfolk accounted for 9 percent of state chlamydia diagnoses between 2005 and 2009, while Newport News and Virginia Beach each accounted for 7 percent. In 2009, Norfolk had 11 percent of state gonorrhea diagnoses, while Newport News had 8 percent. Between 2005 and 2009, Norfolk and Richmond had 12 percent each of state syphilis diagnoses, while 5 percent were in Newport News.
Young black men who have sex with men are the most common demographic for HIV diagnoses, Oldfield said. Between 2001 and 2006, HIV diagnoses in black men ages 13-24 rose 93 percent, he said. Unprotected receptive anal sex is "a very, very risky behavior, and I don't think people know that," he said. "It's much higher risk than vaginal sex."
As of March 10, 521 HIV-positive Virginians were on the waiting list of the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program.