Troubling news in the fight against HIV/AIDs. According to a new study by Johns Hopkins, infection rates among black women in urban cities is five times higher than previously thought.

The data comes from ongoing studies of women in six urban “hot spots”–Baltimore; Atlanta; Raleigh-Durham; Washington D.C.; Newark, NJ; and New York City– areas hit hardest by the HIV epidemic.

The Johns Hopkins website gives more details:

The team found that among 2,099 women ages 18 to 44, 88 percent of whom were black, 1.5 percent (32 women) tested positive at the outset of the study, even though they all thought they were negative. Among those who initially tested negative for HIV, the rate of new infections was 0.24 percent within a year after joining the study.  Some 215 study participants came from Baltimore.

Experts say this rate of infection, or seroconversion, is five times previous estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overall for African-American women.

“This study clearly shows that the HIV epidemic is not over, especially in urban areas of the United States, like Baltimore, where HIV and poverty are more common, and sexually active African-American men and women are especially susceptible to infection,” says principal investigator for the Baltimore portion of the study, Charles Flexner, M.D., a clinical pharmacologist and infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins.

Women account for more than a quarter of all new HIV infections, and black women account for 66% of those infected with the disease. Despite the numbers, researchers assert that “African American women do not engage in more risky behaviors than other women;” however, “a complex range of social and environmental factors place them at greater risk for HIV.”

Although startling, these numbers are a reminder for women to stay vigilant about their health. Continuous testing, using protection during intercourse, and knowing your and your partner’s status are invaluable tools that will help keep you safe.

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