Racial Disparities in HIV Testing Require Explanation, according to Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons

TUCSON, Ariz., June 11, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- People of African ancestry test positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) much more often than people of other racial groups, writes Henry H. Bauer, Ph.D., in the summer issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. The assumption that this is due to behavioral differences reflects racial stereotypes and is not supported by empirical evidence.

Among potential U.S. military recruits, blacks were from five to ten times more likely to have a positive HIV test than whites, Dr. Bauer writes. The disproportionality is global. Almost all countries with HIV positivity greater than one percent are in southern Africa.

Dr. Bauer suggests that dark skin is associated with other genetic factors that predispose to a positive HIV test. The test is quite nonspecific and does not necessarily indicate the presence of a retrovirus.

The test may be positive in the presence of physiological stress or stimulation of the immune system. It may be positive during pregnancy or after vaccination, he states. In fact, there is evidence that African ancestry is associated with more pronounced immune-system activity than found in people of non-African ancestry.

Individuals of African descent, as identified by Ancestry Informative Markers (AIMS) and those that self-identify as African American, suffer disproportionately from inflammatory and autoimmune disease and neurological dysfunction, Dr. Bauer states, or they may have undiagnosed chronic illnesses.

“A non-behavioral explanation is desirable not only for avoiding old racial stereotyping and the psychological strains on HIV-positive black women in wondering about their partners’ activities,” Dr. Bauer writes.

Because of the high frequency of false positives, a “positive” test should result in a “determined search for other morbidities than HIV, rather than an automatic prescribing of antiretroviral drugs with their commonly toxic side effects.”

The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a national organization representing physicians in all specialties since 1943.

Contact: Henry Bauer, henryhbauer@gmail.com, or Jane M. Orient, M.D., (520) 323-3110, janeorientmd@gmail.com