Bill James Draws Controversy with Remarks on Herpes Study

April Bethea, Charlotte Observer, March 13, 2010

A recently released survey on the high rate of herpes cases in Mecklenburg Country drew controversy this week after county commissioner Bill James suggested blacks are more likely to become infected with the disease because they are “more promiscuous.”

Some worry that attention paid to James’ comments could overshadow the larger message of the new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that an estimated one in six Americans has herpes and black women have the highest rate of infection at 48 percent.

James wrote about the CDC survey in two e-mail messages sent to more than 2,000 people this week, taking umbrage with comments from a CDC official saying the higher rate of infection among blacks is not due to increased risky behavior. The health agency said biological factors make women more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, and the higher prevalence of the disease within the black community probably perpetuates racial disparities.

James accused the media and black leaders of downplaying what he alleges are the real reason for high numbers.

“The problem is worse in the African-American community because there is more promiscuous behavior,” James wrote, “and it has to be fixed there and programs have to be tailor (sic) there.”

James has drawn criticism before over comments toward homosexuals and the black community.

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An earlier story on the CDC report can be found here.

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