Rate of New HIV Infections Among Blacks in South Carolina Six Times Higher Than Among Other Races, Health Department Estimates Find
The rate of new HIV infections among blacks in South Carolina was six times higher than among all other races combined in 2006, according to new estimates released Friday by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Columbia State reports.
According to the DHEC estimates for 2006, men contracted HIV at twice the rate of women in South Carolina, and people ages 13 to 29 contracted HIV at a higher rate than people ages 30 and older. DHEC estimated that 990 new HIV infections occurred in the state in 2006, although 777 HIV infections actually were diagnosed that year. There were not enough state-level data to determine variations in gender or mode of transmission within a given race, the State reports.
The estimates are based on data from a new advanced testing method, which enables researchers to detect recent HIV infections. Health officials previously counted the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases to estimate the number of new infections.
According to the State, the new testing method will help South Carolina officials determine whether the number of annual new HIV infections is increasing or decreasing and whether prevention efforts are effective. The number of recorded HIV infections in South Carolina has declined over the past several years, the State reports. Jerry Gibson, chief of DHEC's Bureau of Infectious Diseases, said he would "not be surprised" if health officials find that the annual number of new HIV infections is decreasing.
DHEC has several HIV prevention programs that target blacks, especially black women and black men who have sex with men, that aim to reduce stigma and increase access to HIV testing and services, the State reports. In 2007, more than 50,000 people in the state -- two thirds of whom were black -- received an HIV test. In addition, more than 4,400 people participated in HIV education and risk-reduction programs.
Tony Price, a spokesperson for DHEC, said that there is a "disparity" in the number of annual new HIV infections and that the health department is seeing the "ongoing impact." Price said DHEC needs to continue "doing good prevention" but also needs to "increase prevention efforts." Bambi Gaddist, executive director of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council, said that the health department cannot be the only group addressing HIV/AIDS in the state, adding that community groups, local governments and businesses also need to increase HIV prevention efforts. According to the State, DHEC has lost 6% of its HIV prevention funding during the past five years (Reid, Columbia State, 9/13).