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Continuing racial differences in HIV prevalence in US
Date:10/6/2009

infection through a sexual network faster than the same number of new, sequential relationships. Poverty, a reality of life for a disproportionately large number of African Americans, is strongly associated with HIV infection. The population gender ratio (number of men:women) is a major determinant of the structure of sexual networks and both high male mortality and disproportionate incarceration of black men reduce the gender ratio among African Americans. This likely influences not only marriage rates, but also participation in sexual risk behaviors and sexual mixing and other network patterns.

According to the authors, the overall impact of these factors constitutes structural violence; a social system characterized by inequalities in power and life chances of sufficient magnitude to restrict a group of people from realizing their full potential and put them "in harm's way." Although the link between social context and disease is increasingly recognized, with a few notable exceptions, the specific role of structural violence in the HIV epidemic among African Americans has received considerably less research attention.

Writing in the article, Adaora A. Adimora, MD, MPH, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Medicine, states, "Continuing racial disparities in HIV infection more than 2 decades after the identification of the virus and availability of an accurate test are an indictment of the U.S. response to the epidemic. Existing interventions have failed to control the epidemic in African Americans in part because critical features of the socioeconomic context promote behaviors that transmit HIV and increase the risk of HIV infection even among those who do not have high-risk behaviors. Failure to address these structural determinants has allowed the epidemic to continue in the black community. There is a need for research and interventions that are informed by expertise in public health, medicine, basic science, and social scie
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