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New Study Dispels Notion Of Higher Prevalence Of AIDS Among Haitian Immigrants

CaribWorldNews, Cambridge, MA, Thurs. July 15, 2010: A new study published has found that the AIDS rate among Haitian immigrants in the United States is similar to the rate for African-Americans, challenging previous notions that Haitian immigrants have a higher prevalence of AIDS than all other groups.

The study, titled `HIV among Haitian-born persons in the United States, 1985-2007,` is the first to report on HIV surveillance and AIDS trends for Haitians compared to the U.S. population and African-Americans. It was conceptualized by the National Haitian-American Health Alliance (NHAHA) in collaboration with researchers from Harvard Medical School, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard-affiliated health system.

It was led by Haitian American Dr. Linda Marc-Clerisme, a social epidemiologist who specializes in the psychosocial aspects of HIV/AIDS at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance. Researchers analyzed CDC surveillance data from 1985-2007, for Haitian-born adults and adolescents living in the United States diagnosed with AIDS. Cases were identified by the designation of `Haiti` as place of birth on the CDC case report form. The population denominators used to compute AIDS rates comparing African-American and Haitian communities were based on data from both the U.S. Census Bureau and Haitian Consulates. 

When the research team used Census denominators to calculate the AIDS rate among Haitian immigrants, findings showed that per every 100,000, 78 persons from this community were diagnosed with AIDS, which suggests a seven-fold over-representation in the CDC surveillance database. But when population estimates from the Haitian Consulates were used, the AIDS rate ranged from 35 to 46 diagnoses per every 100,000 Haitian immigrant, which is similar to the four-fold over-representation for African-Americans in the CDC AIDS surveillance database. 

`The US Census Bureau acknowledges that foreign-born populations are often `hard-to-count` if they are undocumented,` said Dr. Marc-Clerisme. `This may explain the difference in the population estimates used and the resulting discrepancy in AIDS rates.` 

Dr. Marc-Clerisme is the spouse of Jean Renald Clerisme, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chancellor for the Republic of Haiti, who has recently been appointed as a member to the Clinton Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission.
Dr. Marc-Clerisme`s research and knowledge of the Haitian community resulted in a 2007 appointment to the U.S. Census Bureau`s Race & Ethnicity Advisory Committee on African-Americans, where she serves as Vice-Chair.  In 2007, the Census estimated there were 530,897 foreign-born Haitians living in the U.S., whereas Haitian Consulates estimated there were between 900,000 to 1.2 million Haitian-born persons living in the U.S. during this same time period. 

`The totals compiled by these two sources  are quite disparate, and it is important to note that Consulates do not run nationally representative surveys or censuses to estimate, or count, the number of their nationals living in the U.S.,` added Dr. Marc. `Their figures are based on the estimated number of services provided to the Haitian community across the U.S.`

`Our findings also suggest a need to tailor culturally sensitive prevention and promotion campaigns for this population, as results from this study also show that both Haitian-born men and women are more likely to receive a late-stage diagnosis compared to African-Americans overall,` said Eustache Jean-Louis, MD, NHAHA Chair and study co-author.

The National Haitian-American Health Alliance is a membership organization based in New York. Daily operations are run by the NHAHA Co-Chair, Yanick Sanon Eveillard, MPH. NHAHA`s mission is to improve the health and welfare of Haitians by enhancing communication, promoting and facilitating collaborative projects; and fostering cooperative relationships among similar organizations through coordinated resources, information sharing, advocacy, capacity building and education.

The Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research generates innovative mental health services research that impacts policy, practice, and service delivery for multicultural populations. It is led by Margarita Alegria, PhD, a study co-author. The Center is comprised of an interdisciplinary group of epidemiologists, psychologists, social policy analysts, health economists, psychiatrists, data analysts, sociologists, and other professionals who assist in the research and analysis of Center projects.

Cambridge Health Alliance is an innovative, award-winning health system that provides high quality care in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston`s metro-north communities. It includes three hospital campuses, a network of primary care and specialty practices, the Cambridge Public Health Dept., and the Network Health plan. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine and Tufts University School of Medicine.