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Minority Health

NIAID has long recognized that racial and ethnic differences affect susceptibility to infection and disease. For example, African Americans account for about 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet represent almost half of new AIDS diagnoses. Native Americans experience higher rates of meningitis and invasive bacterial disease from Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) than do other groups. Year after year, asthma has a disproportionate affect on inner-city populations, particularly among African American and Hispanic/Latino children.

NIAID is committed to research that helps reduce these and other health disparities. Its efforts have led to the development of better drugs for HIV/AIDS, vaccines that have almost eliminated Hib-related disease, and educational programs and other interventions to improve asthma control among inner-city children.

NIAID also works to attract minorities to careers in biomedical research through programs such as Intramural NIAID Research Opportunities, which provides training in NIAID labs for undergraduate, graduate, and medical students from underrepresented groups, and Research Centers in Minority Institutions, which is partly funded by NIAID and aims to enhance research infrastructure at minority colleges and universities that offer doctorates in health sciences.

Public Health Information in Spanish

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What Are Health Disparities?

Health disparities are gaps in the quality of health and health care that mirror differences in socioeconomic status, racial and ethnic background, and education level. These disparities may stem from many factors, including accessibility of health care, increased risk of disease from occupational exposure, and increased risk of disease from underlying genetic, ethnic, or familial factors.

The following are examples of health disparities related to infectious diseases and diseases of the immune system:

Asthma

  • Approximately 2 million Hispanics/Latinos in the United States have asthma, and Puerto Rican Americans have almost three times the asthma rate of the overall Hispanic population.
  • African Americans are diagnosed with asthma at a 28-percent higher rate than whites.

More information on asthma

Autoimmunity

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus is two to three times more common among African American women than among white women. It also is more common in Hispanic/Latina, Asian, and Native American women.
  • African American women are at higher risk of developing systemic scleroderma, a disease characterized by hardening in the skin or other organs, than are white women.

More information on autoimmune diseases

Hepatitis C (HCV)

  • In 2007, American Indian and Alaska Natives were twice as likely to develop a case of HCV as the white population.
  • African Americans make up approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 22 percent of HCV cases.

More information on viral hepatitis

HIV/AIDS

  • African Americans, more than any other racial/ethnic group, bear the greatest burden of HIV in the United States. In 2010, the overall HIV infection rate among blacks was almost eight times higher than that of whites.
  • Hispanics are also disproportionately affected by HIV. In 2010, the HIV infection rate among Hispanics was three times that of whites in the United States.

More information on how HIV/AIDS affects minority populations

Organ Transplantation

  • African Americans are at greater risk than whites for diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease, all of which can lead to end-stage organ failure. Although minorities donate organs in proportion to their share of the U.S. population, their need for transplants is much greater, leading to a shortage of available organs for this group.
  • In comparison to other racial and ethnic groups, African Americans experience higher rates of organ rejection and lower survival rates after transplantation.

More information on transplantation

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

  • While representing 13 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans accounted for approximately 70 percent of reported gonorrhea cases and almost half of all chlamydia and syphilis cases in 2007.

More information on sexually transmitted diseases

Tuberculosis (TB)

  • In 2007, 83 percent of all TB cases in the United States occurred in racial and ethnic minorities, particularly in Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans.

More information on tuberculosis

NIAID Research Aims To Reduce Health Disparities

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Last Updated July 28, 2015