HIV in the American South

Minorities and women living in the South face more HIV complications

(RxWiki News) HIV-related health complications pose a greater risk for women, minorities and Southerners, according to a study by the University of Colorado in Denver.

HIV affects 33 million people around the globe and one million in the United States alone. A recent study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that women, minorities and those living in the South face higher mortality rates.

The most surprising discovery, according to study author Amie L. Meditz, MD from the University of Colorado in Denver, was the fact that women showed the worst outcomes. Most of the women studied had lower viral loads and higher T cell (immune cell) counts. A low "viral load" means the virus is present in a less severe form, while a high T cell count means there is a stronger immune response.

The study, which spanned 10 years and followed patients for roughly four years, showed that nevertheless, women experienced HIV-related illness more than twice as much as men. Minority women accounted for the majority of the women experiencing the more serious consequences.

In the Southern United States, ethnicity played a large role. Sevemty-eight percent of minority patients and 37 percent of white patients in the South experienced one or more "HIV/AIDS-related event," compared to 17 percent of minorities and 24 percent of white people in other areas of the country.

The authors of the study attribute the differences to socioeconomic factors such as health care access, lifestyle and environmental exposure. Researchers from Emory University's Center for AIDS Research in Atlanta offered their opinions on these findings, stressing that socioeconomic factors present a serious problem "both at an individual level as well as at a population level" and present "complex challenges that are beyond the traditional influence of public health."

Intervention strategies and outreach in the Southern United States are critical next steps to help find better health outcomes for women, minorities and others living with HIV.

Review Date: 
January 19, 2011