Is HIV Becoming a Black Disease?
By Wynfred Russell
Blacks in some parts of the United States have HIV/AIDS rates as high as in parts of Africa, according to a report released this week.
The report: â€śLeft Behind - Black America: A Neglected Priority in the Global AIDS" is intended to raise awareness and remind the public that the "AIDS epidemic is not over in America, especially not in Black America,â€? says the Black AIDS Institute, an HIV/AIDS research firm focused exclusively on African Americans.
"AIDS in America today is a black disease," says Phill Wilson, founder and CEO of the institute and himself HIV- positive for 20 years. "2006 CDC data tell us that about half of the just over one million Americans living with HIV/AIDS are Black."
Although Black people represent only about one in eight Americans, one in every two people living with HIV in the United States is Black, the report notes.
The report contains recently published data from the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and existing CDC and U.S. Census data to highlight some grim statistics:
â€˘ Blacks are eight times more likely to get infected than whites
â€˘ AIDS remains the leading cause of death among black women ages 25 to 34.
â€˘ It's the second-leading cause of death in black men 35-44.
â€˘ In 2006, there were 7,426 deaths of AIDS among blacks compared to 3,860 white Americans.
In Minnesota, the most recent data from the Department of Health show that Black people continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. â€śAfrican American and African born men make up approximately 10% of the male population and 48% of the infections diagnosed among men in 2007. Similarly, Black women make up approximately 11% of the overall female population and 74% of the new infections among women.â€?
The situation is just as bleak in other cities with high Black population. For example, in Washington, DC, more than 80 percent of HIV cases are among black people, that's one in 20 residents.
Speaking to CNN on the networkâ€™s acclaimed documentary â€śBlack in Americaâ€?, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says â€śFive percent of the entire population (in DC) is infected... that's comparable to countries like Uganda or South Africaâ€?
The Black AIDS Institute reports, if African Americans made up their own country, it would rank above Ethiopia (420,000 to 1,300,000) and below Ivory Coast (750,000) in HIV population. Both Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast are among the 15 nations receiving funds from President Bushâ€™s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief. The United States has given about $15 billion to qualified African nations in the past five years.
The Institute says it is not criticizing the federal government for helping African countries cope with the AIDS epidemic. Rather, it is saying the "AIDS epidemic [in the U.S.] is not getting the kind attention that it merits."
"We understand the needs of Black folks in Johannesburg (South Africa)," Wilson says. "Why can't we understand the needs of them in Jackson, Mississippi? We understand the needs in Nigeria or Botswana, why not understand the needs of Los Angeles or Oakland?"
Wilson says more needs to be done to prevent the spread of HIV in this country. The report states that the U.S. government "increased spending on HIV prevention, treatment and support programs for low-income countries dramatically, at the same time that domestic remained all but flat."
(CNN contributed to this story)