Study: Sex, race and location may influence HIV outcomes
January 18th, 2011
02:30 PM ET

Study: Sex, race and location may influence HIV outcomes

Women in the United States suffer from HIV-related illnesses more than twice as much as men according to a new study in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. The study also found minorities and people living in the South shoulder a much higher burden of HIV/AIDS related disease than anyone else in the country. Minority women have worse outcomes, according to the study.

During a ten-year period starting in 1997, researchers followed more than 2,000 patients within a year of diagnosis. Patients were tracked an average of four years. Researchers say they were surprised to find that women had the worst outcomes even though after diagnosis they had lower viral loads and higher CD4+ T cell counts than the men.
Viral load is the concentration of the virus in the blood. T cells help the immune system in fight infections.

Most of the men in the study were white, the majority of women were minorities. Half of these women were from the South. The study found 64% of minority women had HIV-related illness and 22% suffered from AIDS-related illnesses. By comparison patients from other race and sex groups had 21% HIV-related and 6% AIDS-related events.

78% of non-whites in the South had at least one HIV/AIDS-related illness versus 17% in other regions.

"To me that's just incredible," said Dr. Amie Meditz, University of Colorado-Denver and lead author. "We have to figure out why this group had poor outcomes and we have to develop strategies on how to fix this."

Study investigators also found minorities and patients living in the South were less likely to start antiretroviral therapy than their counterparts elsewhere. Standard antiretroviral therapy uses a combination of antiretroviral drugs to suppress the virus and stop the disease from progressing. But researchers say this may only be part of the reason for these differences. They say socioeconomic factors like access to care, lifestyle and environmental exposures may play a part in this increased rate of infection.

"Despite striking advances in the treatment of HIV-infection, this study points out that there are other factors that are beyond the sphere of science, medicine and the health care system that can substantially impact the health outcome of HIV-infected individuals," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who funded the study.

"Paramount among these is the influence of socioeconomic factors that often determine access to health care as well as contribute in a negative way to a lifestyle detrimental to optimal health outcomes in the acquisition and treatment of a number of diseases including HIV infection."

But Phill Wilson, dxecutive director of the Black AIDS Institute, says these disparities have been known for some time. He says the challenge is to determine why and find solutions.

"We need to be doing more studies to get a better understanding why people of color, women in general, men having sex with men in general, and black men having sex with men in particular do not fair as well, what are the core causes," Wilson said.

"We know one problem in the South is we have a high patient to physician ratio. We know a disproportionately high number of doctors in the U.S. are not experienced in treating HIV. We have an inferior health care system in the southeast region of the U.S. that attributes to poor HIV outcomes and we have an elevated level of stigma that delays diagnosis and increases risk."

Meditz says the study proves there's work to be done. "There's still race and sex differences in health care outcomes and there's an urgent need that we have to improve health care as it relates to HIV to make it equal for all groups."

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Ceasar Salad w/Booger bits

    Brilliant...so how much money was wasted on the study of answers which we already knew?

    January 18, 2011 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • science wonk

      We didn't know that at all. There is a big difference between speculation derived from a few anecdotes and a thorough study. Now that we really do know, steps can be proposed to fix the parts that need fixing. Common knowledge has been busted time and again by actual study. One example? The world is round even though everyone knows it's flat.

      January 18, 2011 at 16:30 | Report abuse |
  2. Elizabeth

    I wonder how the Q32 mutation affects this.

    January 18, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. BlackArachknight

    The South also has the highest rates of obesity and heart disease.So you have the Bible belt contributing to the stigma of HIV/AIDS, along with a general culture(all races) that has not embraced preventative health and nutrtion.

    January 18, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BlackArachknight

      That's nutrition.

      January 18, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
    • bigdogs

      Well said. Also add in that education overall in the south lags the rest of the country.

      January 18, 2011 at 16:42 | Report abuse |
  4. Mr. Mackey

    AIDS is bad, mkay?

    January 18, 2011 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. LEB

    IMO, this is primarily the result of certain minority races having a bizarre reluctance of using condoms. While condoms are imperfect, they do go a long, long way in helping to prevent the spread of HIV. There seems to be a widespread and long-standing belief among the black community in particular that condoms and birth control were invented to control and reduce the black population... which is not only untrue, but reckless to believe when black women are far more likely to have children out of wedlock, which no doubt correlates with higher poverty rates. Using the Pill would prevent many of those unplanned-for births, and using condoms would also prevent unwanted pregnancies while reducing the spread of HIV.

    When solutions to these major social ills that disproportionately affect members of minority communities are so obvious and easy, it escapes me as to why they are not utilized. Perhaps community leaders and other influential individuals (such as music and sports stars) should create more of a push to encourage women to wait until they're in their mid-20s to become mothers, and encourage young men that wearing a condom is all about showing respect to your partner's body and to yourself.

    January 18, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Philip

    Wearing a condom does nothing to prevent the spread of AIDS. As in zero, nada, zip....nothing. Period. Common sense should tell you this.

    January 18, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Think

      That is false. It is THE way to prevent the spread.

      January 19, 2011 at 10:29 | Report abuse |
  7. Philip

    Yeah, I can see it now: Kobe Bryant's new commercial telling girls to wait 'till they're older than 20. It's the lifestyles promoted by these 'leaders' (yes, even you MLK) that lead to society's ailments. Our entire social fabric hangs on condoms and tolerance now. No wonder it shreds so easily these days.

    January 18, 2011 at 17:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Jenny

    Every story (read study) has two sides or possible outcomes. These outcomes are meant to assist in redirecting funds. Every study on HIV/Aids has a twisted component to it. The only consistent thing about them is that those results are carefully manipulated to show need for more money for that population.

    We know how Aids is transmitted and we know how to avoid it..

    January 19, 2011 at 01:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. lorioberien

    Oh wow, I have gotten about 3 or 4 different samples from major brands. It is not difficult to find them. Search online for "123 Get Samples" you can find them easily.

    January 19, 2011 at 04:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jostendorf

    this i a crying shame! personally it makes me mad to see this as a black woman. I now live in florida and i know how ignorant they can be. it is not due to the lack of health care resources, but the blatant ignorance the people in the south posess!

    January 19, 2011 at 07:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Billy Davis

    This poll or research is such a lie. Tell the truth the majority of people with aids by far are gay white men. Yes, HIV has increased in black females it has also increased in white females. However, when you have 200 that has it and it increases to 500 that doesn't mean that 78% of all black women have HIV. In Texas there are 63K HIV cases and 72% is white gay men it safe to say that number is similar throughout the US but the pollsters will not report that story. Tell the truth and quit trying make every negative poll on anything the worse for blacks. What a bunch of liars.

    January 19, 2011 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Philip

    We all know where AIDS came from and how to avoid it. So let's stop pretending like we don't.

    January 19, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. cindychicago

    Finally safe way to abrade stretch marks at home http://www.medicalcrystals.com

    January 21, 2011 at 04:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Adolf

    Dont wants AIDS then dont do things that cause AIDS...its really pretty simple.

    January 24, 2011 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply

Leave a Reply to LEB


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

January 2011
  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.