Slum Doctor Programme

High Rates of HIV Infection Among African Americans
July 30, 2008, 12:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Nearly 150 people in Whatcom County are living with HIV/AIDS.”

“Does that surprise anyone?”

I look around the room and most of the students are nodding their heads yes. These same feelings are echoed in many of the classrooms where we present our Global AIDS Curriculum. They cannot believe that people are living with AIDS in our community. To them AIDS is a problem far away, not in Bellingham or the U.S.

One million people in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS. Every year approximately 40,000 Americans are newly infected. Minority groups are increasingly impacted by HIV, with African Americans and Latinos disproportionately affected.  Although, African Americans comprise only 12% of the population, they account for half of all new infections.

Recently, several reports have detailed the impact AIDS is having on the African American Community.  “If black America were a country, it would rank 16th in the world in the number of people living with the AIDS virus,” the Black AIDS Institute, an advocacy group reported last week. The death rate for HIV positive African Americans is 2 and a half times that of infected whites.

Many experts are calling for increased prevention efforts in the black community.  Others are criticizing the Bush administration’s AIDS policies at home. “American policy makers behave as if AIDS exists ‘elsewhere’ – as if the AIDS problem has been effectively solved” in this country, said Phill Wilson, the group’s chief executive. The group also pointed out that more black Americans were living with the AIDS virus than the infected populations in Ethiopia, Haiti, Vietnam and several other countries that receive U.S. support for AIDS relief.

When I finish explaining the situation in the U.S., a student asks simply, “why?” I am not sure I have the exact answer to her question.  Clearly some of the same issues leading to high infection rates in other parts of the world are at work here.  Lower socio-economic status for many African Americans and stigma surrounding AIDS in the black community are contributing to high rates. Also, their is inequality in the health care system and blacks are less likely to receive the same care as whites when they see a doctor.

But regardless of the explanations, it is apparent that people in our country and our communities, particularly minority groups, are continuing to contract HIV. It is clear that attention must be paid to those impacted by HIV/AIDS both abroad and at home.

Read more about the Black AIDS Institute’s report


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