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.
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:
- In 2015, approximately 2.2 million Hispanics/Latinos in the United States reported having asthma, and Puerto Rican Americans have almost three times the asthma rate of the overall Hispanic population.
- African American women are 20 percent more likely to have asthma than non-Hispanic whites.
- 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 those with European descent.
Hepatitis C (HCV)
- In 2014, American Indian and Alaska Natives were five times as likely to develop a case of HCV than the white population.
- African Americans have among the highest rates of chronic Hepatitis C and Hepatitis C-related deaths compared to other ethnic groups.
- African Americans, more than any other racial/ethnic group, bear the greatest burden of HIV in the United States. In 2015, the overall HIV infection rate among blacks accounted for 45 percent of HIV diagnoses, though they comprise 12 percent of the U.S. population.
- Hispanics/Latinos are also disproportionately affected by HIV. In 2014, Hispanics/Latinos accounted for almost one quarter of all estimated new diagnoses of HIV in the United States and six dependent areas.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
- While representing 12 percent of the U.S. population, in 2014, African Americans accounted for approximately 55.4 percent of reported gonorrhea cases, 38.1 percent of reported syphilis cases, and five to seven times the rate among white men and women of reported chlamydia cases.
- In 2015, 87 percent of all TB cases in the United States occurred in racial and ethnic minorities, particularly in Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans.
- African Americans make up approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 21 percent of reported TB cases in U.S.-born persons in 2015.
NIAID Research Aims To Reduce Health Disparities
- Diversity Programs Supported by NIAID
- The NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health provides the Women of Color Health Information Collection, which presents data on race/ethnicity and disease.
- Hepatitis C (HCV) is one of several health issues affecting the African American community. HCV patients may be eligible to volunteer for NIAID viral hepatitis studies.
- Donate life! Become an organ donor by visiting OrganDonor.gov.