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African Americans

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black/African American communities is a continuing public health crisis for the United States. According to the CDC, in 2017, while African Americans comprised 13% of the U.S. population, they represented 43% of all new HIV diagnoses.

Nearly 470,000 African Americans in the United States were living with HIV/AIDS in 2015—representing 42% of the more than 1.1. million American living with HIV/AIDS.

A National Perspective
According to the CDC, in 2017:

  • 73% (12,237) of adult and adolescent African Americans who received an HIV diagnosis were men, and 26% (4,397) were women.
  • 60% (10,070) of African Americans who received an HIV diagnosis were gay or bisexual men.
  • Among African American gay and bisexual men who received an HIV diagnosis, 41% (4,088) were aged 25 to 34. 

African Americans, HIV/AIDS, and New York City
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in 2017:

  • 43% of all newly diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS in New York City were among African Americans (919 out of 2,157).
  •  African Americans make up about 44% of all people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City, where there are more than 125,000 total people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • The HIV diagnosis rate among African American males was 1.4 times higher than the rate among Latino/Hispanic males, and over three times higher than the rate among White males.
  • The HIV diagnosis rate among African American females was 2.7 times higher than the rate among Latina/Hispanic females, and over 10 times higher than the rate among White females.
  • African Americans were much more likely to have unsuppressed viral loads: More than 35% of African American males with HIV/AIDS had unsuppressed viral loads, compared to 22.6% of Latino/Hispanic men and 6.8% of White men. African American females are also much more likely to have unsuppressed viral loads: 20.9% of Black females had unsuppressed viral loads, compared to 11.1% of Latina/Hispanic females and 1.2% of White females.

Prevention Challenges

Like other communities, African Americans face a number of risk factors that contribute to the high rates of HIV infection:

  • Sexual risk factors include high-risk sexual contact such as unprotected sex with multiple partners or unprotected sex with persons known to have or be at a high risk for HIV infection. People may be unaware of their partner’s sexual risk factors or have incorrectly assessed them.

  • Injection drug use may add to the higher rates of infection for African Americans. In addition to being at risk from sharing unclean needles, causal and chronic illegal substance users may be more likely to engage in unprotected sex under the influence of illegal drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continue to be experienced at higher rates within the African American community, more so than any other race/ethnicity in the United States. The presence of certain STDs can significantly increase one’s chances of contracting HIV infection. A person who has both HIV infection and certain STDs has a greater chance of spreading HIV infection to others.
  • Lack of awareness of HIV serostatus is risky for African American men and women. In a recent study of men who have sex with men (MSM) in five cities, 46% of the black MSM were HIV-positive and 67% of those men were unaware of their infection.
  • Stigma, a “negative social label that identifies people as deviant”7, also puts too many African American communities at a high risk of infection. Any behavior deemed deviant (i.e. MSM) has been highly stigmatized. Many at risk for HIV infection fear stigma more than knowing their status, choosing instead to hide their high-risk behavior rather than seek counseling and testing. Therefore they continue to be at risk and may infect others.
  • The socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, including limited access to high quality healthcare, housing and HIV prevention education may directly or indirectly increase the risk factors for HIV infection.

*Includes persons of unknown race or multiple races/other.
**Heterosexual contact with a person known to have or to be at risk for HIV infection.

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