For Immediate Release
Contact: For copies of articles, call Olivia Chang, (202) 777-2511 or e-mail .

July 2004 AJPH Press Release

All articles are online at . To view the preliminary table of contents, visit

American Journal of Public Health July 2004 Highlights

  • On-screen smoking by popular actors leads adolescents to cigarettes Manycommercial plasma centers located in neighborhoods with high drug use
  • Poverty ups HIV risk significantly
  • Nation’s prisons need better HIV and hepatitis prevention programs
  • Harassment common for young gay and bisexual men
  • Under conditions typical in developing countries, HIV-positive mothers should breastfeed infants for six months

The articles highlighted below appear in the July 2004 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of the American Public Health Association.

On-screen smoking by popular actors leads adolescents to cigarettes

Popular actors who smoke in movies encourage smoking among adolescents, suggesting that movie product placement is an effective covert tobacco marketing strategy according to a three-year study of young adolescents.

Researchers interviewed almost 3,000 12 - to - 15-year-olds who had never smoked and who participated in the California Tobacco Survey. When asked to name their favorite screen actors, those youth who named actors who smoked onscreen were much more likely to have tried cigarettes by the follow-up survey three years later. One-third of those surveyed named actors who smoked in the movies.

“Public health efforts to reduce adolescent smoking must confront smoking in films as a tobacco marketing strategy,” the study’s authors wrote. [From: “Smoking in Movies Influences Adolescents to Start Smoking.” Contact: John P. Pierce, PhD, Cancer Prevention and Control Program, University of California, San Diego,]

Poverty ups HIV risk significantly

The nation’s homeless and poor continue to face much higher risks of HIV than the general population, and a recent study showed the risk is five times greater among indigent adults.

A study of 2,508 adults living in San Francisco homeless shelters found an almost 11 percent HIV-positive rate among that population. For homeless men who admitted to having sex with other men, the rate was nearly 30 percent. Sexual activity appears to have a much greater impact on HIV risk than injection drug use, which also is a widespread problem among the homeless population.

“Indigent urban adults appear to be the “new faces” of HIV in the United States who will carry the heaviest burden of the HIV epidemic into the third decade,” the study’s authors wrote. “Broad structural classes such as poverty, class, racism and homophobia should be studied to better inform interventions.” [From: “HIV Seroprevalence Among Homeless and Marginally Housed Adults in San Francisco.” Contact: Marjorie J. Robertson, PhD, Alcohol Research Group,]

Many commercial plasma centers located in neighborhoods with high risk areas.

The safety of the nation’s blood supply may have been at risk because of the locations of commercial plasma donation centers, according to a recent study.

When researchers looked at the geographical location of commercial plasma centers in the United States from 1980-1995, they found such centers were disproportionately likely to be found in the middle of neighborhoods where access to illicit drugs (including drugs often taken by injection) was reported to be easiest, and where active illicit drug markets were common. Injection drug use is linked to the spread of HIV as well as other blood-borne infections such as hepatitis C. The plasma centers were up to eight times more likely to be located in these “high-risk” census tracts than would be expected by chance. The study’s authors said it was not surprising to find such clinics located in high-risk neighborhoods in the early 1980s, when HIV and hepatitis C transmission through plasma products had not yet been established. However, the fact that the centers continued to operate in these “high-risk” areas even after the risks of infection were well-known appears inconsistent efforts to enhance and ensure the safety of the plasma and blood collection systems. [From: “Geographic Location of Commercial Plasma Clinics in the United States, 1980-1995.” Contact: Cameron A. Mustard, ScD, Institute for Work and Health, Toronto,]

Nation’s prisons need better HIV and hepatitis prevention programs

Researchers found that male inmates entering the Rhode Island Department of Corrections represented a high risk population: 20 percent of were hepatitis B positive, 23 percent were hepatitis C positive, and 2 percent were HIV positive. Within the prison setting, researchers found that HCV transmission was low, and that there were no new HIV infections, however, hepatitis B incidence was a concern (2/100 person-years).

“Our data and that of other studies suggest that activities to prevent transmission of hepatitis in a correctional setting are important for both inmates and correctional staff,” the study’s authors wrote. Although federal health officials recommend routine hepatitis B vaccination for prison inmates, only two of 36 correctional systems provided such vaccination to date. While incidences of these infections are probably higher among similar high-risk populations outside of prison, the prison setting represents a unique opportunity to prevent disease transmission. The public health impact of providing hepatitis B vaccinations to all inmates will affect not only the prison population, but the communities inmates return to as well. [From: “ Prevalence and Incidence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Hepatitis B Virus, and Hepatitis C Virus Infections Among Males in Rhode Island Prisons .” Contact: Grace E. Macalino, PhD, MPH, Brown University,]

Harassment common for young gay and bisexual men

Harassment and discrimination are daily problems for many young gay and bisexual men, according to a recent study of men living in three southwestern cities.

Researchers surveyed 1,248 gay and bisexual men living in Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., and Austin, Texas, and found that 37 percent experienced anti-gay harassment in the previous six months. More than 11 percent had experienced discrimination during the same time period, and about 5 percent were victims of physical violence. The men surveyed ranged in age from 18-27, with an average age of 23.

Until anti-gay policies are commonplace nationwide, the study’s authors suggest more research into the issue and empowerment programs to help gay men deal with harassment, discrimination and violence. [From: “Experience of Harassment, Discrimination and Physical Violence Among Young Gay and Bisexual Men.” Contact: David M. Huebner, MD, MPH, Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, San Francisco,]

Under conditions typical in developing countries, HIV-positive mothers should breastfeed infants for six months

Under conditions common in settings where HIV prevalence is high, HIV-positive mothers who breastfeed their infants for the first six months of life increase the baby’s chances of survival, according to a new study.

Researchers used a spreadsheet simulation model to predict HIV-free survival for babies who live in “resource-poor settings” such as developing countries. Breastfeeding for a baby’s first six months increased HIV-free survival by 32 per 1,000 live births. The study found that after six months, formula-feeding gives a child the best chance to survive and avoid HIV exposure.

United Nations agencies currently recommend that HIV-infected mothers avoid breastfeeding “when replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe.” The study’s authors urge more research into the issue. [From: “Modeling the Effects of Different Infant Feeding Strategies on Infant Survival and Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV.” Contact: Jay S. Ross, Academy for Educational Development,]

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