Diagnosing African-American men with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can vary depending on the type of test administered, a new study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine has found.
The findings are based on a multiyear report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found an alarming spike in new cases of HIV among Black homosexual men—nearly 50% of all new cases in the U.S. between 2006 and 2009.
These startling numbers prompted researchers to look at three methods of diagnosis in order to learn which was most effective, including:
— Partner services, which involves identifying, locating and interviewing HIV-infected persons to provide names and contact information of their sex and needle-sharing partners, notifying partners of their exposure to HIV and providing HIV counseling, testing and referral services to those partners;
— Alternative venue testing, in which rapid HIV testing is conducted in bars, churches or mobile units;
— The social networks strategy, where HIV testers engage HIV-positive individuals to become "recruiters." Through active enlistment and coaching processes, staff build relationships and help recruiters engage people in their social circles into HIV testing.
Alternative venue testing showed a rate of 6.3 percent, much lower than the rates for the social networks strategy (19.3 percent) and partner services (14.3 percent), the study showed. The odds for detection of HIV-positive in Black homosexual men were 3.6 times greater for the social networks strategy and 2.5 times greater for partner services than alternative venue testing.
Other noted differences were that men tested through alternative venue testing were younger and more likely to identify themselves as "gay" than men tested through the social networks strategy.
Meanwhile, the report concludes, men who tested through the social networks strategy reported more sexual risk behaviors than men tested through alternative venue testing.