CDC Admits Report on Black Women With STDs – “Inaccurate”

21 Apr

Hat tip – NewsOne and The Root

CDC’s shocking report last month that nearly half of all black women were infected with Herpes turns out to have a few problems. It appears that the data group utilized in the survey was limited to one economic strata, with a high incidence of drug use. Ergo, what the study did was to select 890 poor black women from an urban environment instead of selecting a representative sample across economic lines.

The second issue is that the study only looked at exposure to the virus, which doesn’t necessarily mean that the women in the study would develop the disease. As such, there wasn’t a count of women who actually had developed Herpes.

Sometimes "Random Selection" Isn't So Random

Behind the Herpes Numbers

The March reports of sky-high levels of the genital herpes virus among black women set off a firestorm of disbelief and recrimination. The numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave many black women an all-too-familiar feeling: shock, concern and an overwhelming sense of fatigue in the face of yet another study bringing bad news and fear.

African-American men and women often seem to be under siege when it comes to the ongoing flood of research trumpeting our higher rates of nearly everything, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). No doubt, disparities exist, but in this case, it’s reasonable to take a step back from the anger and take a closer look at what the statistics are really telling us.

The new research should not be seen as an indictment of the sexual behavior of African Americans. The numbers–though startling (48 percent of African-American women have been exposed to the virus that causes genital herpes)–are not so much about sex, as they are about circumstances, and, possibly, the way information is gathered for medical research…

The current herpes statistics were based on a group of 893 African-American women, but the 48 percent number has been misinterpreted in most reports. “These women were only tested for antibodies to the HSV-2 virus,” explains Dr. David Malebranche, an assistant professor at Emory whose research focuses on STDs in African Americans. “This means that they have been exposed to the herpes virus, but it does not mean that these women have actually developed the disease or have active herpes. In fact, they may never develop active herpes.”…

The 2010 report is also not a harbinger of a growing epidemic. “The herpes numbers for black women have remained relatively the same over several years at 46 percent to 51 percent,” Douglas said. In the 1988-94 NHANES sample, the prevalence of herpes among black women was 51.3 percent, in the 2004 survey the number was 46.1 percent. That places the current rate–48 percent–right in the middle. “NHANES is less than perfect, but without a doubt the best that we have,” Douglas adds, a point that is shared by the majority of STD researchers…

Douglas and other experts say the numbers have very little to do with high-risk sexual behavior. “STDs are shared among people in sexual networks,” explains Dr. Irene Doherty, who is part of a team of researchers at the University of North Carolina who explore how STDs spread. “The theory of sexual networks is simple: It’s not what you do; it’s what your partners do and what your partner’s partners do. Our data shows that black women do not have more sex or more high-risk sex than other women. It’s fairly well-established that they select partners from a small pool that has a high rate of STDs.”…

Several African-American scholars, and other scientists, express concern about how research–even the highest quality research–is conducted when it comes to African Americans. In short, where are the millions of middle-class African Americans who are not living in poverty, using drugs or incarcerated in these numbers?

Dr. Velma Murry, a sociologist at Vanderbilt who studies the black middle class, found, for instance, that “adolescent, middle-class, African-American girls delayed having sex two years beyond the national average,” a contradiction of other national reports. “When we look at research, middle-class African Americans are almost excluded,” Murry said. “Most research looks at middle-class whites and low-income African Americans. Then the two are compared and a disparity is reported. But there are far more differences within racial groups than between racial groups, so it’s very important to know who is in a study and how they were identified.”…

“There is a problem right now with CDC,” says Malebranche, who has had CDC funding, but does not intend to repeat the experience. “A lot of their statistics are myopic and flawed. I don’t think it’s a concerted effort to ignore the black middle class, but you don’t often see research on poor, white populations with high rates of STDs. I’m not in denial that disparities in STDs exist, but researchers often look for the easiest population to track and find,” which often means studying poor, urban areas.

“We can’t make any conclusive remarks about African Americans because middle-class African Americans are still an invisible population in most research,” Murry adds, noting that this not only leads to inaccurate reports about African-American life, “but we miss the positive practices of black families–the practices that work for us, that lead to better physical and psychological health.”


Posted by on April 21, 2010 in The Post-Racial Life


Tags: , , , , ,

11 responses to “CDC Admits Report on Black Women With STDs – “Inaccurate”

  1. Dwjazzlover

    April 21, 2010 at 10:18 AM

    One of the major problems I had in My Masters program was not “slanting” my research to satisfy my instructors…


    • btx3

      April 21, 2010 at 11:26 AM

      Yeah – there is a lot of that in certain fields. For years, reports by the DOJ in their “Crime Statistics” were slanted by what was or was not included in violent crime categories.


  2. tafaraji

    April 21, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    No surprise here. I never believe the hype anyway.


    • Shaquetta

      April 27, 2010 at 8:01 AM

      I agree, but it’s unfortunate because it doesn’t take much to get people in an uproar because they rarely question the information they are given. My concern is this attack on minorities, specifically the black family. First black men are not financially or socially fit to be our husbands and black women are angry and destined to be single forever and now studies like this. How does a sample of 893 properly reflect a entire population?


      • btx3

        April 27, 2010 at 9:37 AM

        A relatively small sample level can give a pretty good idea of the dynamics of a much larger population. The same science is used in political polling, marketing, and opinion polling. HOWEVER – unless the sample is selected with extreme care to represent the makeup of the population, there can be extreme errors.

        One of the arguments being advanced that the CDC polling isn’t accurate is the reliance on subjects from the same socio-economic group, instead of a distribution across the population. It is well known that there are considerable differences in behavior, attitudes, and mores between poor, urban black women and middle class black women. What he CDC is saying isn’t the headline that 48% of black women have Herpes, what it means is that in the sample of poor, urban populations black women are 3-4 times more likely than white women to have Herpes. While middle class black women are likely substantially less likely to be afflicted, the CDC’s position is that ratio of 3-4 times higher infection rate should, in the CDC’s view, carry forward against all economic levels.

        That isn’t necessarily true – in that intra-racial variation usually is much greater than inter-racial variation. Ergo, there could be a bigger difference between infection rates between middle class black women and poor, urban black women than between urban black women and white women of any economic group.


  3. nanakwame

    April 21, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
    Benjamin Disraeli

    Nice to hear from you tafaraji


  4. Elijah Edwards

    June 10, 2011 at 7:59 AM



  5. Ellis Ellison

    November 27, 2012 at 5:59 AM

    2 SAVE BLACK PEOPLE From Themselves.
    _Becuase they will HATE YOU Even more with this TRUTH.
    “WHY OUR U Picking on Us”.
    1.With STD RATEs At 48% for BLACK WOMEN-(Herpe).


    • Michelle Richardson (@Michele83076630)

      May 4, 2016 at 1:30 AM

      Black people ARE saving themselves. Read the article again sir. The Center for Disease Control(CDC) compares middle class white women to poor black women. Middle class black women are not compared to middle class white women. And poor white women are hardly compared at all. It’s the CDC that is putting out inaccurate statistics. Young African American girls have sex 2 years later than the national average.


  6. Michelle Richardson (@Michele83076630)

    May 4, 2016 at 1:20 AM

    Yes, I knew it all the time. You cant trust statistics when it comes to non-whites. And its unfortunate that black people are the,”Fall Guys” for all that’s wrong with America. America, take some accountability and stop pointing the finger at non-whites, Thank you.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: