HIV/AIDS among African Americans and US women: minority and young women

HIV/AIDS among African Americans and US women: minority and young women

Geraldine Brown

The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to be a major health crisis facing the African American community. Although African Americans make up only about twelve percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for half of the new HIV infections reported in the United States in 2001. Numerous studies suggest that many new infections occur among young African Americans. In the early 1980s, HIV/AIDS was considered mostly a gay white male disease in the United States. Today, the pandemic has expanded and the disease is also a major health problem in the African American community, where men and women of every age and sexual orientation are affected ( pubs/Facts/afam.htm).

African American men account for forty three percent of HIV cases reported among men in 2001. Thirty two percent of African American men who have sex with men were found to be infected with HIV in a recent multi-city study of men ages 23 to 29 years, compared to fourteen percent of Latinos and seven percent of whites in the study.

While information on recent HIV infection is limited, data reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) through 2001 suggest that the leading cause of HIV infection among African American men is sexual contact with other men, followed by injection drug use and heterosexual contact.

African American women accounted for almost sixty four percent of HIV 1 cases reported among women in 2001. The rate of HIV infection among African American women, ages 20 to 44, in 25 states with HIV reporting before 1994, was 80.1 per 100,000 population from 1994 to 1998–four times higher than the rates among Latinos of the same age, and more than 16 times higher than the rates among white women (CDC, 2003).

Information is limited on recent HIV infection, but available data suggest that the leading cause of HIV infection among African American women is heterosexual contact, followed by injection drug use.

A recent study by CDC of Job Corps entrants, ages 16 to 21, showed that, compared to their white counterparts, African American women were seven times more likely to be infected with HIV, and African American men were four times more likely to be infected.

Fourteen percent of young African American men who have sex with men were infected with HIV, almost four times the rate of their white counter parts, in a five–year study of approximately 3,500 gay and bisexual men ages 15 to 22 in seven U.S. cities between 1994-1998.

In addition to experiencing historically higher rates of HIV infection, African Americans continue to face challenges in accessing health care, prevention services, and treatment.

According to CDC (2003), a study of 9,113 patients in eleven U.S. cities found that HIV–infected African Americans were less likely than infected Whites to receive the life-enhancing anti-retroviral therapies for HIV.

African Americans are more likely to face challenges other than race and ethnicity in the HIV pandemic. The risk of HIV infection is prevalent, especially among the poverty stricken persons, denial and discrimination, partners at risk, and the other sexually transmitted disease connection.

Prevention is the key to curtailing the HIV pandemic. CDC is committed to working with communities to

slow the spread of HIV among African Americans. Of the $744 million that CDC received for domestic HIV/ AIDS prevention in 2001, over 40 percent supported activities targeted to reduce HIV/AIDS among African Americans. CDC is working in partnership with African American communities to ensure that appropriate HIV prevention programs are designed for and delivered to high–risk African Americans. CDC funds hundreds of community–based organizations for HIV prevention programs to reach African Americans across the nation (CDC, HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, 2003).

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