HIV/AIDS Crisis Continues to Severely Affect African-Americans, Report Finds

If the African-American population in the Unites States were its own country, it would rank sixteenth in the world in the number of people living with the AIDS virus, a new report from the Black AIDS Institute finds.

Funded by the Ford and Elton John AIDS foundations, the report, Left Behind! Black America: A Neglected Priority in the Global AIDS Epidemic (56 pages, PDF), found that nearly 600,000 African Americans are living with HIV and up to 30,000 more are becoming infected each year. When adjusted for age, the AIDS death rate among African Americans is two-and-a-half times that of infected whites.

A separate United Nations report released this week painted a somewhat more optimistic picture of the worldwide AIDS epidemic, noting that fewer people are dying of the disease since its peak in the late 1990s and that more people are receiving antiretroviral drugs, the New York Times reports. Nevertheless, the UN report found that progress remained uneven and that the future of the epidemic was uncertain.

The gains are partly due to the PEPFAR program, which delivers drugs and preventive measures to people in countries highly affected by HIV. The Black AIDS Institute report noted that federal funding of PEPFAR has increased dramatically, while funding for domestic HIV prevention programs has remained virtually flat at a time when the number of African Americans living with HIV/AIDS is greater than the infected populations in Botswana, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Namibia, Rwanda, or Vietnam — all countries that receive support from PEPFAR.

These and other disparities are "staggering," said Kevin A. Fenton, director of HIV prevention efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It is a crisis that needs a new look at prevention," said Fenton. "We recognize this is a crisis, and clearly more can be done."

Lawrence K. Altman. "U.S. Blacks, if a Nation, Would Rank High on AIDS." New York Times 07/30/2008.