By Desiree Taylor
The state’s largest city is considered a “hot spot” for its high HIV transmission rates according to a national study designed by UMDNJ professor and researcher, Dr. Sally Hodder. African American women in Newark have been hit especially hard, with rates comparable to areas of sub-Saharan Africa according to Hodder. The HIV incidence rate of 0.24 percent in the study of more than 2,000 women, 88 percent of whom are black, is five-fold higher than that estimated for black women overall by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We have known that black women in the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by HIV,” said Hodder, “however the magnitude of this disparity in areas hardest hit by the HIV epidemic underscores the gravity of the problem.”
It’s not just black women who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS. Women constitute roughly one-quarter of new HIV infections in the U.S., 66 percent of them are African American females. This data should serve as a wake up call, says Hodder, who believes a greater focus on prevention efforts is needed to stem this “forgotten epidemic.”
The study focused on six locations in the northeast and southeast regions of the U.S. with the highest HIV prevalence rates in women. These “hot spots” include Atlanta, G.A., Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Washington D.C., Baltimore, M.D., New York City, N.Y., and Newark, N.J. Additional research in Newark helped to create an intervention model. Researchers determined the best approach would be to combine four interventions; increasing HIV testing coverage, decreased time from infection to testing, decreased dropout of patients from treatment programs, and improved use of therapies.
The CDC estimates there are more than one million Americans living with HIV, 21 percent of them do not know they are infected. Better drugs have helped to increase survival rates.