Racial disparities in CD4 counts at initial HIV-1 diagnosis: Analysis of the Adult Spectrum of HIV disease dataset and public health implications

Emmanuel Japhet Minja, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Introduction. The HIV/AIDS disease burden disproportionately affects minority populations, specifically African Americans. While sexual risk behaviors play a role in the observed HIV burden, other factors including gender, age, socioeconomics, and barriers to healthcare access may also be contributory. The goal of this study was to determine how far down the HIV/AIDS disease process people of different ethnicities first present for healthcare. The study specifically analyzed the differences in CD4 cell counts at the initial HIV-1 diagnosis with respect to ethnicity. The study also analyzed racial differences in HIV/AIDS risk factors. Methods. This is a retrospective study using data from the Adult Spectrum of HIV Disease (ASD), collected by the City of Houston Department of Health. The ASD database contains information on newly reported HIV cases in the Harris County District Hospitals between 1989 and 2000. Each patient had an initial and a follow-up report. The extracted variables of interest from the ASD data set were CD4 counts at the initial HIV diagnosis, race, gender, age at HIV diagnosis and behavioral risk factors. One-way ANOVA was used to examine differences in baseline CD4 counts at HIV diagnosis between racial/ethnic groups. Chi square was used to analyze racial differences in risk factors. Results. The analyzed study sample was 4767. The study population was 47% Black, 37% White and 16% Hispanic [p<0.05]. The mean and median CD4 counts at diagnosis were 254 and 193 cells per ml, respectively. At the initial HIV diagnosis Blacks had the highest average CD4 counts (285), followed by Whites (233) and Hispanics (212) [p<0.001 ]. These statistical differences, however, were only observed with CD4 counts above 350 [p<0.001], even when adjusted for age at diagnosis and gender [p<0.05]. Looking at risk factors, Blacks were mostly affected by intravenous drug use (IVDU) and heterosexuality, whereas Whites and Hispanics were more affected by male homosexuality [ p<0.05]. Conclusion. (1) There were statistical differences in CD4 counts with respect to ethnicity, but these differences only existed for CD4 counts above 350. These differences however do not appear to have clinical significance. Antithetically, Blacks had the highest CD4 counts followed by Whites and Hispanics. (2) 50% of this study group clinically had AIDS at their initial HIV diagnosis (median=193), irrespective of ethnicity. It was not clear from data analysis if these observations were due to failure of early HIV surveillance, HIV testing policies or healthcare access. More studies need to be done to address this question. (3) Homosexuality and bisexuality were the biggest risk factors for Whites and Hispanics, whereas for Blacks were mostly affected by heterosexuality and IVDU, implying a need for different public health intervention strategies for these racial groups.

Subject Area

African Americans|Public health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Minja, Emmanuel Japhet, "Racial disparities in CD4 counts at initial HIV-1 diagnosis: Analysis of the Adult Spectrum of HIV disease dataset and public health implications" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1450342.