New Attention to HIV/AIDS Disparities

By Rachel Walden — July 31, 2008

This week the Black AIDS Institute released a report, “Left Behind! Black America: A Neglected Priority in the Global AIDS Epidemic” [available as a PDF]. The authors explain:

“…as America lost interest in its own epidemic over the last decade, the disease became even more firmly implanted in Black America. Nearly 600,000 Black Americans are living with HIV, and as many as 30,000 become newly infected each year….Blacks living with HIV have an age-adjusted death rate more than twice as high as HIV-infected whites.”

Statistics from the CDC reveal that while Blacks are about 13% of the U.S. population, they are nearly half of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Among women diagnosed with HIV in 2005, 64% were Black women.

The authors of “Left Behind!” describe a lacking national strategy, in contrast with international efforts (such as the recent PEPFAR reauthorization). Of 15 countries targeted for international HIV/AIDS relief, the raw number of HIV+ Black Americans is higher than that of seven of those countries, including Ethiopia, Vietnam, Haiti, and others. The authors explain further that if Black America were its own country, it would have the 16th largest HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world.

In an article in the New York Times, Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC’s HIV prevention efforts, calls the disparity “staggering” and calls the situation “a crisis that needs a new look at prevention.” Fenton also stated, however, that “the argument that government prevention efforts are not tailored to the black epidemic is mistaken,” according to the Washington Post. The agency’s own statistics reveal that:

Since the beginning of the epidemic, blacks have accounted for 397,548 (42%) of the estimated 952,629 AIDS cases diagnosed in the 50 states and the District of Columbia” [emphasis added]

A new CDC report on HIV incidence is expected to be released on Sunday. The Southern AIDS Coalition has also been attempting to draw attention to geographic and racial disparities in the epidemic, and UNAIDS released a new report on the global AIDS epidemic.

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