What Sets Immigrants with HIV Apart?

HIV patients born outside US generally are heterosexual

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Among the tens of thousands of people who are diagnosed with HIV in America every year, many have been born outside the country. How do they differ from HIV patients born in America?

The short answer is that they're more likely to be Asian or Hispanic, and to have gotten infected by heterosexual sex.

A new study examined the characteristics of people born outside the US who were diagnosed with HIV and compared them to US-born HIV patients.

"Practice safe sex to protect yourself against HIV."

Dr. H. Irene Hall of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted the study along with a team of researchers. The findings were presented at the International AIDS conference, held this year in Washington, DC.

The research suggests that reaching and educating immigrants with HIV may require a different approach than infected individuals who were born in the US. The authors of the study said that language and cultural barriers might make it difficult for immigrants to learn about HIV prevention, access HIV testing and get care.

The researchers took a data set of 191,697 people diagnosed with HIV between 2007 and 2010 across the US. They found that people born outside the country made up 16.2 percent of the new infections.

There was significant diversity when they looked at racial and ethnic distinctions. In white/Caucasian diagnoses, 3.3 percent were born outside the US, while in black diagnoses, 10 percent were immigrants.

Asians had the highest percentage of foreign-born diagnoses, with 64.3 percent. In the Hispanic category, 42.2 percent of diagnoses came from outside the US.

Among the other findings:

  • The four states that reported the highest overall prevalence of HIV were California, Florida, New York and Texas. These states also had the highest number of HIV diagnoses in people born outside the US.
  • The majority of HIV cases both foreign and native born were diagnosed in males.
  • Almost 40 percent of infections for both men and women born outside the US were attributed to heterosexual sex. Among US-born patients, only 27.2 percent of infections were due to heterosexual sex.
  • The most common region of origin for HIV-positive individuals born outside the US is Central America, followed by the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and South America.

The researchers noted that it was not possible to distinguish between infections that occurred in the United States, and infections that preceded immigration.

No conflicts of interest were reported by the authors of the study.

The paper was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in July 2012.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 25, 2012
Last Updated:
February 11, 2013