HIV More Common Among Black Women in Ohio Than Among White Women
HIV is 11 times more common in black women in Ohio than in white women, according to state health department figures, and the number of cases is increasing, the Columbus Dispatch reports. In Franklin County, women represented 17% of all HIV/AIDS cases in 2001, compared with 6% in the early 1990s, and "most" of the cases are among black women. Health department officials attribute the rise to a reluctance among some cultures to embrace safer sex messages, as well as the "silence and shame" surrounding the disease and behaviors that contribute to its spread, according to the Dispatch. In addition, the disproportionate rates could partly be attributed to the fact that black women experience puberty sooner and some may become sexually active sooner than white women, according to Carol O'Neill, health program manager at the Columbus Health Department. Health officials have had to "break through cultural and ethnic barriers to have [black women] listen, believe and trust us," O'Neill said. In addition, stigma associated with the disease has persisted more among women than men, according to Michael Para, co-director of the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at the Ohio State University Medical Center, who added that an HIV-positive gay man can "find support," while a woman with HIV "may not be able to tell her family" about her condition. Health officials are trying to break down the stigma surrounding the disease and encourage men and women to practice safer sex in order to curb the rising number of cases among the black female population (DeMartini, Columbus Dispatch, 2/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.