In the United States, HIV impacts African Americans more than any other racial/ethnic group. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans account for nearly half of all new HIV infections each year and more than one third of all people living with HIV nationwide. While prevention efforts have helped reduce the annual number of new HIV diagnoses among African Americans over the last decade, progress has not been uniform across the black community.
“The picture of HIV’s impact on the black community is mixed,” said amfAR Vice President and Director of Public Policy Greg Millett. “New infection rates are decreasing among black women and stable among black heterosexual men, but new HIV infections in the black community remain concentrated among black gay and bisexual men. We need to work for progress among all African American demographics to fully end this lopsided and enduring disparity.”
The latest CDC data show that new HIV infections are increasing among black gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), despite overall decreases in the general population. Representing just 0.2% of the total U.S. population, black MSM account for nearly a quarter of all new infections nationwide.
Multiple, Complex Factors Increase Risk
African Americans are at higher risk of HIV exposure, not because they engage in more risk-associated behaviors, but because the prevalence of HIV is so much greater among black communities than among any other racial/ethnic group. Socioeconomic factors including poverty, racial discrimination, and lack of access to healthcare also greatly contribute to the disproportionate burden of HIV among African Americans. This is most notably the case in regions with large black populations like the American South where approximately half of the nation’s new HIV infections occur, with African Americans accounting for nearly 80% of them.
It will require a deliberate and determined effort to end the racial disparities in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. This will mean focusing more on populations at highest risk for HIV, especially black MSM, and ensuring they have access to quality healthcare and scaled-up treatment and prevention programs. At the grassroots level, it will also require an expansion of education and awareness initiatives to diminish the stigma that often prevents people from seeking HIV services.
Get Educated, Get Tested, Get Involved, and Get Treated
Held every year on February 7, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative for African Americans. Since 1999, the Awareness Day has served to focus the efforts of the black community to educate themselves on the basics of HIV transmission, prevention, and treatment; to take steps to protect their health and the health of others by getting tested for HIV; to get involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS; and for those infected with HIV, to seek treatment.
For more information about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day visit: http://nationalblackaidsday.org/