By George E. Curry
As we prepare to commemorate World AIDS Day on Monday, Dec. 1, this is a good time to look at how the epidemic continues to devastate our community.
A fact sheet by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation noted, “Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS since the epidemic’s beginning, and that disparity has deepened over time. Blacks account for more new HIV infections, people estimated to be living with HIV disease, and HIV-related deaths than any other racial/ethnic group in the U.S.”
• Today, there are more than 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., including more than 506,000 who are Black.
Although Black Americans represent only 12 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 44 percent of new HIV infections and an estimated 44 percent of people living with HIV in 2010.
• The rate of new HIV infections per 100,000 among Black adults/adolescents (68.9) was nearly eight times that of Whites (8.7) and more than twice that of Latinos (27.5) in 2010.
• The rate for Black men (103.6) was the highest of any group, more than twice that of Latino men (45.5), the second highest group. Black women (38.1) had the third highest rate overall, and the highest among women.
• In 2010, African American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men represented an estimated 72 percent (10,600) of new infections among all African American men and 36 percent of an estimated 29,800 new HIV infections among all gay and bisexual men. More new HIV infections (4,800) occurred among young African American gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24) than any other subgroup of gay and bisexual men.
• In 2010, African American women accounted for 6,100 (29 percent) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. This number represents a decrease of 21 percent since 2008. Most new HIV infections among African American women (87 percent; 5,300) are attributed to heterosexual contact. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American women (38.1/100,000 population) was 20 times that of White women and almost five times that of Hispanic/Latino women.
• Of HIV diagnoses among 13 to 19 year olds, almost 70 percent are to Black teens, even though they constitute approximately 16 percent of the adolescent population in the U.S.
• HIV was the fifth leading cause of death for Black men and the seventh for Black women, ages 25-44, in 2010, which is higher than any other racial or ethnic group.
Not surprisingly, most of the Black HIV/AIDS cases are in the South, where the majority of African Americans live.
The Kaiser fact sheet observed, “Regionally, the South accounts for the majority of Blacks newly diagnosed with HIV (61% in 2011) and Blacks living with an HIV diagnosis at the end of 2010 (55%).
“HIV diagnoses among Blacks are clustered in a handful of states, with 10 states accounting for the majority (68%) of Blacks living with an HIV diagnosis at the end of 2010. New York and Florida top the list. While the District of Columbia had fewer Blacks living with an HIV diagnosis in 2010 (10,995), it had the highest rate of Blacks living with an HIV diagnosis at the end of 2010 (4,260.3 per 100,000); a rate more than 3 times the national rate for Blacks (1,242.4).
“Ten large metropolitan areas accounted for over half (59%) of Blacks living with an HIV diagnosis at the end of 2009. The New York and Miami metropolitan areas had the greatest numbers of Blacks living with an HIV diagnosis.”
Like most females, Black women are more likely to have been infected through heterosexual transmission than their White counterparts, who are more likely to have been infected through drug use than Black women.
Though males are more likely to have been infected through sex with other men, heterosexual transmission and injection of drugs account for a greater share of new infections among Black men than White men.
Although 75 percent of Blacks in the 18-64 age group report having been tested for HIV the – the highest of any group – within the last 12 months, 17 percent of Blacks living with HIV do not know they are infected. That’s crucial because the sooner an HIV-positive person enters treatment, the better chance he or she has of living a long, relatively normal life.
Overall, HIV is not at the high levels it was in the 1980s, but we are a long way from eradicating this scourge.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.