WASHINGTON, D.C. (Observer Update) - HIV/AIDS groups nationwide are calling for greater attention to be paid to the disproportionate rate of HIV/AIDS among African Americans, 365Gay.com reported. National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was observed across the country on the weekend. African-Americans face the most severe rates of HIV infection in the nation.
The latest estimates indicate that while blacks make up just 12 percent of the U.S. population, they account for nearly half of new HIV infections and almost half of the more than one million Americans estimated to be living with HIV. “The harsh reality is that one in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lifetime, as will one in 30 black women,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
Sixty-three percent of new infections among black men occur among men who have sex with men. Further, there are troubling signs of a worsening epidemic among young black MSM, as HIV diagnoses in this population have increased dramatically in recent years. Black women are also disproportionately affected by HIV, with infection rates 15 times as high as those of white women. “To turn the tide, we all must continue to confront the realities of this disease in African-American communities,” said Fenton in a statement. “While race itself does not increase risk, high prevalence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in black communities means African-Americans face a greater risk of HIV infection with each sexual encounter than other groups. Stark realities of some African-Americans’ lives – including poverty and limited access to health care – increase the likelihood of HIV infection. Stigma and homophobia also contribute to keeping HIV alive in black communities.”
But Fenton also said that recent evidence shows there is progress being made. “In a promising sign that prevention efforts are working, a major CDC study recently found that new infections among blacks have remained roughly stable for more than a decade – despite the growing number of people living with HIV who can potentially transmit the disease. New infections have also declined among several transmission groups in which African-Americans are disproportionately represented – babies born to HIV-infected mothers, intravenous drug users, and heterosexuals.” Still, nearly 25,000 blacks still become infected with HIV every year.
In 2007, CDC spent $300 million – more than half of its domestic HIV prevention budget – on fighting HIV in African-American communities. And through the Heightened National Response to the HIV/AIDS Crisis among African-Americans, CDC is working with black leaders and public health partners to expand the reach of existing prevention programs, develop new interventions and research, increase testing, and mobilize black communities. “As a nation, we must recognize the HIV epidemic for the crisis that it is,” Fenton said. ” In our communities, we must work to confront the stigma that prevents too many of those at risk from seeking testing, treatment and support.”
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