SUNDAY, July 22, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Among people with HIV in the United States, those born outside the country are more likely than U.S.-born patients to be Hispanic or Asian and to have acquired HIV through heterosexual sex, a new study finds.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
Language and cultural barriers can make it difficult for people born outside the United States to learn about HIV prevention, have access to HIV testing and to get timely medical care, the researchers noted.
They examined data from more than 191,000 people in 46 states and five U.S. territories who were diagnosed with HIV between 2007 and 2010. Of those people, 16.2 percent were born outside the United States.
The four states with the highest numbers of foreign-born people with HIV -- California, Florida, New York and Texas -- also had the highest number of HIV cases overall. Most of the newly diagnosed HIV patients were males -- 77.7 percent of U.S.-born patients and 73.5 percent of foreign-born patients.
Of the overall HIV diagnoses, foreign-born people accounted for: 3.3 percent of the more than 55,000 diagnoses in whites; 10 percent of the more than 86,000 diagnoses in blacks; 42.2 percent of the more than 42,000 diagnoses in Hispanics; and 64.3 percent of the nearly 2,000 diagnoses in Asians.
Heterosexual sex accounted for 39.4 percent of HIV diagnoses in foreign-born people and 27.2 percent of HIV diagnoses in U.S.-born people.
The most common regions of birth origin for foreign-born patients were Central America, including Mexico (41 percent); the Caribbean (21.5 percent); Africa (14.5 percent); Asia (7.9 percent); and South America (7.6 percent).
The data did not show whether foreign-born patients were infected with HIV before or after they arrived in the United States.
"These findings demonstrate the diversity of the HIV-infected population born outside the United States, presenting many clinical and public-health challenges," concluded H. Irene Hall, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues.
The study appears online in the Journal of the American Medical Association and was to be presented Sunday at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.
"This study and other studies suggest that [foreign-born people in the United States] are in need of appropriate education and outreach, testing and treatment, and mental-health services, including specialized services for those who experience traumatic events in their home countries or during the immigration process, substance treatment for those addicted to drugs [and] HIV care for those who are infected," Dr. Mitchell Katz, of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, and deputy editor of the Archives of Internal Medicine, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
"Although these lessons may apply regardless of country of origin for HIV-infected persons, the effectiveness of these messages and interventions will require culturally relevant delivery to each specific population of immigrants," he added.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about HIV and AIDS.