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“You talk about, ‘Can we decrease the HIV burden in the United States?’ I would say, ‘What can we do to decrease poverty in the United States?’” Dr. del Rio said.

He noted there are diseases that are more prevalent in certain racial groups, for genetic reasons. Sickle cell disease, which is most prevalent in blacks, is one example.

But there’s no clear biological reason why the infection rate is eight times higher in blacks than whites, and three times higher in Hispanics than whites. But understanding that blacks are disproportionately poor probably does explain why the rates are higher, Dr. del Rio said.

He was an author of a smaller, recent study that found that 60 percent of Atlanta’s HIV cases were located in a downtown area of the city with high proportions of blacks, IV drug users and people living in poverty.

An estimated 1 in 272 Americans is infected with HIV, according to 2006 estimates. In other terms, more than 1.1 million Americans are living with the AIDS virus. The number has grown since 2006, CDC officials believe.

Officials believe the annual number of new HIV infections has been hovering around 55,000 a year since the late 1990s.