Over thirty years ago, America, and nations around the world, came face to face with HIV/AIDS--a devastating global, public health concern that decimated cities, communities and countries alike. In the three decades since its discovery, much has changed--and thankfully--much has improved. Today, advancements in prevention and treatment have led to a significant reduction in HIV transmission; the expansion of HIV screening and testing has resulted in far more people knowing there HIV status and getting help early; and new and better drugs are allowing those infected with HIV/AIDS to lead longer and better quality lives. That's the good news.
But the news that should give us pause is that while we stand undisputed victorious on a variety of battlefronts against this devastating epidemics, we are losing a costly war--one that primarily claims young, male and female African-Americans and Latinos as its victims.
HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. Sexual orientation, race or gender cannot protect you from HIV infection, but unfortunately, in far too many cases, those factors could increase your risk of infection. An estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV infection in the United States today. Compared to other races and ethnic groups, Blacks and Hispanics are the groups most affected by HIV -- accounting for a higher proportion of new HIV infections. of those living with HIVE and of those ever diagnosed with AIDS. In 2010, African Americans accounted fro 44% of all new HIV infections. While African Americans are 12% of the U.S population, in 2011, they accounted for 41% of people living with HIV. Hispanics represent 16% of the population, but accounted for 20% of those living with HIV. The numbers are graver still for African-American women. CDC statistics point to AIDS as the fourth leading cause of death among African-American women ages 35-44. According to the latest statistics, African-American women accounted fro 64% of new HIV infections. Hispanic women accounted for 15% of all new infections and white women accounted for 18 percent.
To win the war on HIV/AIDS; to achieve the three zeroes; we cannot approach the epidemic as a standalone public health crisis. Our nation must develop a multi-pronged approach to HIV/AIDS that also addresses equal access to health care and civil rights.
The lack of access to healthcare must be addressed in communities of color if we are going to effectively address the prevalence of this disease. While the Affordable Care Act has expanded the coverage of HIV prevention services and medical care, it can only work where it exists. It comes as no surprise that in states that rejected ACA, which also tend to be poorer states, HIV/AIDS remains at crisis levels. That lack of awareness, the lack of access to prevention and education are needlessly decimating communities of color. According to the CDC. African Americans also have the worst outcomes for continued care after diagnosis.
We must all do our part to stop the spread of this disease. Know your status; get tested; and encourage the people you love to do the same. And when you meet someone with HIV/AIDS don't perpetuate the problem of stigma and discrimination, be a part of the solution to help us get to zero.