Florida Community Where Heterosexual Sex First Identified as HIV Risk Factor Still Has High HIV Prevalence, Study Says
A rural Florida community -- where researchers in 1986 determined that heterosexual sex and not mosquitoes was the primary transmission route of HIV -- continues to have high HIV prevalence, although prevention programs might have helped lower the rate over the years, according to a study published in the Sept. 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, Reuters Health reports. Dr. Todd Ellerbrock of CDC and colleagues between 1998 and 2000 conducted a survey of households in Belle Glade, Fla., and the surrounding western Palm Beach County, where the 1986 survey found that 3.2% of the population was HIV-positive. The researchers enrolled 516 residents in the study and tested 447 of them for HIV. Approximately 1.7% of the residents in Belle Glade tested HIV-positive, and 1.6% of the population in the surrounding area tested HIV-positive, according to Reuters Health. Unlike the 1986 survey, the more recent survey showed that men who had sex with men were not at a higher risk of HIV infection than other residents. However, residence in a high-risk neighborhood had become a risk factor. Both surveys showed that people who had higher numbers of sex partners, a history of sexually transmitted diseases or had sex for drugs or money were at an increased risk for HIV infection. "This indicates that HIV infection evolves over time into a disease that persists in focal geographic areas without spreading to the community at large," the researchers wrote, adding that further progress in lowering the number of HIV-positive people in the community requires "a better understanding of the social networks that exist in these endemic neighborhoods and ethnographic studies focusing on the identification of factors affecting heterosexual HIV transmission" (Reuters Health, 10/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.