African Americans Disproportionately Affected by HIV, CDC Report Says
Although the rate of new HIV infections has remained constant over the past four years, the virus is disproportionately affecting African Americans, particularly heterosexual black women and gay black men, according to new CDC data presented yesterday at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, the Los Angeles Times reports. In his address at the opening session of the conference, Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, presented new CDC statistics on HIV infection in 25 states. According to the data, African Americans account for 54% of all new HIV infections and 75% of new HIV infections among heterosexuals in the United States, even though they represent only 12% of the U.S. population. In addition, although Latinos represent less than 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 19% of the country's new HIV infections. Twenty-six percent of new HIV infections occur among whites. The number of new HIV infections in the United States has remained steady over the past several years, averaging about 40,000 new infections annually since 1998 (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 7/8).
The demographic shift of the virus is not simply racial, Valdiserri said, noting that more infections are occurring among heterosexuals. New HIV infections among heterosexuals rose 10% between 1998 and 2000, he added (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/8). Heterosexuals account for 33% of new HIV infections, while men who have sex with men represent 42% and drug users account for 25%. Valdiserri noted that the CDC statistics may not be complete because they do not include data from California, Florida and New York, three states that have higher populations of blacks and Latinos. The CDC is currently organizing a new national recording system to "more accurately estimate" the rise of new HIV infections in the country. The program is being tested at five sites and will be expanded nationally next year, Valdiserri said (Los Angeles Times, 7/8).
"Today's epidemic is very different from the one we faced a decade ago. The populations at risk, the attitudes about infection and the science of HIV have all changed. And so must our prevention efforts," Valdiserri said (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/8). . He said many Americans are "complacen[t]" because they believe that antiretroviral drugs have made HIV a "treatable" infection. "Americans ... don't have the same sense of urgency or crisis which characterized the early years of the epidemic. Some are becoming bored with HIV after 20 years, some are simply tired of the messages and behavior change. And many didn't realize they were signing on for a lifetime of condom use," he said (Ross, AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7/8). Valdiserri added that the U.S. population "can't sit back and wait for a vaccine," but must instead "renew" HIV prevention efforts. "We must revive the passion with which the United States once faced the HIV epidemic, with a strong and preeminent focus on preventing the spread of the virus," he concluded (AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7/8).