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13th Annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

February 7, 2013

HIV/AIDS Among African-Americans

HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect African-Americans in comparison to other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Although black people comprise 14 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 44 percent of all new HIV infections. The problem is particularly alarming among young black men, particularly gay and bisexual men, who are experiencing the greatest number of new HIV infections in comparison to any other group in the United States. And while the number of new HIV infections among African-American women has recently been declining, black women continue to make up 13 percent of all new infections with an HIV incidence rate 15 times higher than Caucasian women and more than three times as high as Latina women.

A number of underlying factors are causing this disproportionate impact. One key factor is because of the high number of African-Americans living with HIV, black Americans face a greater risk of infection with each sexual encounter. Stigma, fear, homophobia and negative perceptions about HIV testing also serve to inhibit people from seeking important HIV prevention services, including HIV testing. Socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, including access to healthcare, housing, HIV prevention services and access to HIV antiretroviral treatment for the infected, also serve to increase the risk for HIV infection among African-Americans. Further, black Americans continue to experience higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than other racial-ethnic groups, and certain STIs can increase the chances for acquiring and transmitting HIV.

What NIAID is Doing

NIAID's HIV/AIDS prevention research has been looking at some of the underlying factors driving the epidemic among African-Americans in an effort to design prevention programs more tailored to the population. For example, the NIAID-funded HPTN 061 study found a 2.8 percent overall rate of new HIV infections among 1,553 black men who have sex with men in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and discovered that HIV infection was associated with high rates of untreated STIs and poverty. The findings could underpin a larger clinical trial of community-level HIV prevention interventions among black men who have sex with men in the U.S.

Last year, investigators with the NIAID-funded HPTN 064 study found an estimated annual HIV incidence rate of 0.24 percent among 2,009 women (88 percent of whom were black) living in urban areas with both high rates of HIV and poverty. The findings suggest the need for programs that raise HIV risk awareness and expand HIV testing and prevention efforts in highly affected urban areas.

NIAID also provides major funding for the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), an observational study of the natural and treated history of HIV infection in women, now in its 20th year. Black women comprise more than half of the study's 3,800 participants. The study helps researchers understand differences in HIV disease and treatment outcomes between women and men—a critical research goal.

The TLC-Plus (HPTN 065) study, which is taking place in two majority-black communities, Washington, D.C. and the Bronx, N.Y., is examining the potential for a large-scale, community-wide approach designed to expand HIV testing and quickly link infected individuals with medical care and treatment. Additionally, NIAID and the D.C. Department of Health have teamed up to create the D.C. Partnership for HIV/AIDS Progress, a collaborative research initiative to decrease the rate of new HIV infections in the nation's capital, improve the health of district residents living with HIV infection, and strengthen the city's response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

In addition to these HIV prevention research efforts, NIAID also funds and conducts studies designed to find new and improved treatments for HIV-infected individuals, a preventive vaccine, and, ultimately, a cure.

Last Updated February 04, 2013

Last Reviewed February 04, 2013