This was a print ad from BuyLife.org which is an organization which is raising money to fight HIV/AIDS in India and Africa. It is interesting to note that while HIV/AIDS infection is a serious problem for the Afrian-American community in the United States, all of the print ads and PSA's that I found online featured white people. Not one print ad which targeted African-Americans.
According to the 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation HIV/AIDS Policy Fact Sheet, the rate of HIV/AIDS has "has remained stable since 2000" (KFF, 2011). The report notes that since the AIDS epidemic was at its highest in the 1980's with 130,000, the rate of instances has been in decline. This might indicate why we have developed a slightly relaxed stance toward HIV/AIDS since that time. The stigma of AIDS being a "gay problem" has been overcome in part, and the rates of treatment for the infection has helped many more people to live with HIV infection than ever before, as the KFF report notes in its key facts. "More than 1.1 million people are estimated to be living with HIV (including those with AIDS) today, representing a slight increase over time as people are living longer with HIV disease and new infections remain relatively stable" and that "HIV/AIDS rates...have declined significantly; the age-adjusted HIV death rate dropped by 77% (since 1995)" (KFF, 2011). That's the good news...
The bad news is that HIV/AIDS is still a very serious problem in minority communities. The rates of infection are also moving away from some traditional sources, such as intravenous drug use and moving sharply toward African-American men in general. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that there are 1.1 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS today. To date, 617,000 people have died from HIV/AIDS, 16,000 (or 2%) died in 2008 alone. And, what is possibly most startling, "20% of people infected don't know it, and many people with HIV (33%) are diagnosed late in their illness" (KFF Report, 2011).
The Kaiser Family Foundation report states that "every 9½ minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV" (KFF Report, 2011). And chances are, that someone is African-American and male. According to the CDC 2006 estimates, the rate of HIV/AIDS broke down quite drastically along racial and gender lines:
Rate of HIV/AIDS for African-American men: 115.7 (per 100,000 population).
Rate of HIV/AIDS for White men: 19.6 (per 100,000 population).
Rate of HIV/AIDS for African-American women: 55.7 (per 100,000 population).
Rate of HIV/AIDS for White women: 3.8 (per 100,000 population).
Those statistics show that the rate of HIV/AIDS for African-American men was nearly 6X higher than the rate for white men, and the rate 14.5X higher for African-American women than it was for white women.
It is important to note that the Latino community had higher rates of HIV/AIDS than the white population. The rate for HIV/AIDS amongst Latino men was 2X higher than it was for white men and the rate of infection for Latino women was over 3.5X higher than it was for white women.
But, even those staggering disparities in the health differential pale when you consider this: "At some point in their lifetimes, 1 in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV infection, as will 1 in 32 black women" (CDC.gov). That is a deplorable rate of morbidity, and not to sound too conspiratorial, but if we had that same rate of disease amongst the majority of the population, I am certain that this would eclipse even the debt ceiling debate or whether we should pull troops from Afghanistan. Those impresions would be affirmed, in part, by this fact from the Kaiser Family Foundation Report, "HIV was the 4th leading cause of death for Black men and 3rd for Black women, ages 25–44, in 2007, ranking higher than their respective counterparts in any other racial/ethnic group."
The next question that we should be asking is why is this the case? How is this possible, that we are seeing such a dramatic difference in HIV/AIDS infection in minority communities? That is more difficult to discern through the Kaiser and CDC data. What is clear, is that while HIV/AIDS has been reported in all 50 states,10 states of reporting accounted for 70% of reporting for the total population. New York accounted for 17% of reporting, followed by California with 14.2%, Florida with 10.7%, Texas with 7%, New Jersey with 4.8%, Georgia with 3.5%, Illinois and Pennsylvania with 3.4%, Maryland with 2.9% and Puerto Rico with 2.8%. The CDC report notes that "seven of the top 10 states by AIDS diagnosis rate are in the South" which also has a higher-than-average African-American population. The CDC also notes that the same southern region "accounted for almost half (45%) of new AIDS diagnoses in 2009 and has the greatest number of people estimated to be living with AIDS" (CDC.gov). Washington D.C. has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the country, as was reported by the Washington Post in 2006. "'Our rates are higher than West Africa,' said Shannon L. Hader, director of the District's HIV/AIDS Administration, who once led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's work in Zimbabwe. 'They're on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya.'" (Washington Post). It is hard for me to fathom that we have an AIDS problem on par with African countries in our nations capitol, but that appears to be the case.
And, the rates of HIV/AIDS instances in D.C. are on par with the national averages. The CDC shows that the rate for homosexual, African-American males "comprised 63% of all black men, and 35% among all MSM" (CDC.gov). But, before we quickly denegrade that statistic as a "gay problem" within the African-American community, the Kasier Family Foundation report notes that "based on the CDC’s estimate of HIV/AIDS prevalence,3 there are approximately 545,000 Blacks living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Analysis of national household survey data found that 2% of Blacks in the U.S. were HIV positive, higher than any other group" (KFF Report, 2011). No matter how you cut it, HIV/AIDS is a problem for our country, and particularly a problem for the African-American community.
What can be done to reverse this rate of HIV/AIDS in minority communities? Just like any other public health issue facing a population, there are no easy answers. African-Americans also face an elevated rate for STD's, which I wrote about earlier this week. Surprise to probably no one, education and outreach appears to be the best way to curb this tide of infection. In 2006, Washington D.C. mayor, Adrian Fenty addressed the estimated 3% of the D.C. population infected with HIV this way, "'In order to solve an issue as complex as HIV and AIDS, you have to step up,' he said. 'It's the mayor and certainly other elected officials. But it's also the community. You have this problem affecting us, and you tell people how serious it is and it literally goes in one ear and out the other'" (Washington Post). I am afraid that if something is not done soon, it will continue to be the case amongst our politicians and population, "in one ear and out the other."