There’s been quite a bit of uproar regarding HIV/AIDS misinformation lately. If you haven’t heard the news recently, rapper DaBaby is currently being held accountable for the following comment he made at his Rolling Loud concert: “If you didn’t show up today with HIV, AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases, that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cell-phone lighter up” (Washington Post).
While the topic of HIV/AIDS is circulating through pop culture news, let’s take a moment to discuss who this disease affects and why.
Accounting for 42% of new HIV cases, the group currently most affected by HIV is the Black community. Of the 37,968 new cases of HIV diagnoses in the US in 2018, 42% were among adult and adolescent African Americans/Blacks, 31% were among African American/Black men, and 11% were among African American/Black women (CDC).
The number of Black people presenting with AIDS continued to increase even when antiretroviral therapy (ART) became more widely available in the mid-1990s – at a time when AIDS diagnoses for White people were steeply declining. Reasons for this include poor access to health information, delayed medical care, poorly managed chronic conditions, and economic instability.
Dr. Jun Li from the CDC looked at the likelihood of receiving an ART prescription within a month of newly entering HIV care. Among 11,853 eligible adults who attended two or more clinic visits within a year of entering care, nearly half were homosexual and Black (48% and 45% respectively), 77% were under the age of 50, and 51% lived in the South (AIDS Map).
Overall, receiving timely ART significantly improved between 2012 and 2018, jumping from 42% to 82% (AIDS Map). While Black people living with HIV had a lower rate of receiving timely ART when compared to White people between 2012 to 2015, this difference was no longer apparent for the second half of the period leading up to 2018. This could be associated with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Knowing these disparities, what can we do to reduce them? Dr Kashif Iqbal from the CDC proposes proper funding to jurisdictions with high numbers of Black and Latino men living with HIV; this funding would allow health departments to develop comprehensive community-based HIV prevention and care services in tandem with healthcare, increased HIV testing and screening, and social services.