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A new government report says that the rates of HIV infection in infants are significantly higher among blacks and Hispanics than whites, and preventive measures are needed to reduce the disparity.

Although the number of HIV-infected infants has declined overall, among black babies, the rate of perinatal HIV infection — meaning transmission at the time of birth — is 23 times higher than for whites, and among Hispanics, the rate is four times higher, according to findings published in the Feb. 5 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The average rate of perinatal infection in the United States is 2.7 per 100,000 live births, the report indicates. For blacks, the rate is 12.3 per 100,000; for Hispanics, 2.0 per 100,000; and for whites, 0.5 per 100,000.

The researchers, who analyzed data from 34 states from 2004 to 2007, noted that transmission from an HIV-infected mother to her child can be significantly reduced through preventive measures.

So what can we do to help?

*  Be sure that if you are single and sexually active, you protect yourself each and every time. Always use condoms and if pregnancy is not desired, seek medical attention and get on some birth control!

*  Make sure that if you are engaging in risky behaviors such as sharing needles and exchanging bodily fluids, you get tested regularly.

*  Primary HIV prevention in women is key and efforts should be specifically directed towards black and Hispanic women. All HIV-positive women who are pregnant should have access to quality health care and take advantage of preventive measures, including early treatment with antiretroviral medications, the report stated.

* HIV infection should be diagnosed before or early in pregnancy

* All moms-to-be should receive prenatal care

*  HIV-positive women should follow an antiretroviral medication regimen throughout pregnancy

*  A cesarean delivery should be scheduled at 38 weeks’ gestation if the virus has not been suppressed

*  Antiretroviral medication should be taken during labor and delivery

*  Newborns exposed to HIV should receive antiretroviral medication within the first hours after birth and for the first six weeks of life.

As a community, we must do all that we can to change these statistics as our youth will someday lead us into the future. It’s vital to educate our children at an early age about the dangers around HIV/AIDS that continue to tear down Black communities. Let’s take the extra step and protect our culture and race against this plague that is killing our people.

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