While HIV/AIDS is an epidemic that affects every race and population around the globe, it is important to give help to the race that is most affected by this disease and that is the African American ethnic group. In every category it seems that Black people are more affected and more prone to contract HIV/AIDS. From the problems of poverty, incarceration, awareness, drugs and sexual awareness African Americans lead in every category. These problems have existed since the beginning of the epidemic and although there have been advanced in the medical and technological fields, African American people do not have as much access as other ethnic groups.
The vicious cycle of poverty, drugs and incarceration lead to a devastating lifestyle in the African American community. This is one of the main reasons why the death rate and contraction rate of disease is higher among African American people. Drugs and poverty lead to incarceration and incarceration leads to drug and poverty. One mistake and the life of an African American person could change forever and become another statistic.
There needs to be a change within how we fight the AIDS epidemic. There needs to be a call for help and action within the government and the African American people. First there needs to be an acceptance of gay and bisexual people within the community and a spread of awareness of the disease. There also needs to be better living conditions and medicinal programs that allow for AIDS testing. Realizing that incarceration, poverty and drugs are some of the leading factors in contracting AIDS also needs to be recognized in order to slow the pace of the disease within the black community.
I hope this Analysis and website has been helpful and eye-opening to the struggles and inequality that the Black community faces especially in regards to AIDS. Many people have tried speaking about it and using their work and music to try to show the struggles of the African American person but it continuously gets overlooked. This invisibility needs to be challenged and something needs to be done.
The African American Community is mostly affected in three groups: women, young people and heterosexual and gay men.
Among all women, Black women account for the largest share of new HIV diagnoses (about 4,500, or 60% in 2016), and the rate of new diagnoses among Black women (26.2) is 15 times the rate among white women and nearly 5 times the rate among Latinas. Black women also accounted for the largest share of women living with an HIV diagnosis at the end of 2015(Kaiser 2018). Women continue to be a large statistic and constitute one of the most alarming trends in the epidemic in recent years. This trend continues to be particularly visible in the South, where African- American women constituted 72% of all reported cases(nmac.org).In 2016, Black women represented about one quarter (26%) of new HIV diagnoses among all Blacks – a higher share than Latinas and white women (who represented 12% and 14% of new diagnoses among their respective groups)(Kaiser 2018). These percentages have decreased over time but African American women continue to be impacted heavily by HIV/AIDS.
In 2016, Black teens and young adults, ages 13-24, represented more than half (54%) of new HIV diagnoses in that age group. According to a national survey of young adults ages 18-30, about three times as many Blacks (46%) as whites (15%) say HIV today is a “very serious” concern for people they know. Almost twice as many Black young adults (30%) say they know someone who is living with, or has died of, HIV/AIDS, compared to whites (16%)(Kaiser 2018). Young black people are also more susceptible to lives of crime, incarceration, and drugs. Young African Americans are also not educated or mature enough to know about unprotected sex and being careful when sharing anything that can transmit HIV/AIDS. These factors all lead to an increase in the contraction of HIV/AIDS in young black people.
Gay and Bisexual Men
The population with the most disproportionate HIV burden is African American gay and bisexual men, who have HIV prevalence rates that are twice those of white counterparts. There are a number of reasons for this disparity. Evidence suggests that African American heterosexuals and gays less frequently tested for HIV and at later stages of their HIV infection, and are also less likely to have been previously aware that they were HIV positive, than other racial groups(nmac.org). In addition, Black gay and bisexual men are less likely to identify as gay or disclose their sexual behavior to others. Research suggests that the homophobia and related stigma that many men feel for being both African American and gay carries into their experiences with the healthcare system, and can interfere with accessing HIV testing and other medical services (Malebranche, Peterson, Fullilove and Stackhouse, 2004). This stigma of the “down low” brother greatly influences the “coming out” of African American men and how they go about getting tested and many do not want to or are scared to. In my personal observations in Midtown when working as a valet I have seen awareness programs go to mostly bi or gay clubs and bars and give free testing and condoms to help with this epidemic. This is because gay and bi men are less likely to go out and do it themselves. A study in 20 major U.S. cities found that about 36% of Black gay and bisexual men were infected with HIV, compared to 22% of gay and bisexual men overall, and awareness of infection among Black gay and bisexual men was lower compared with gay and bisexual men in the study overall(Kaiser 2018).
Other notable facts from Kaiser state:
Among gay and bisexual men, Blacks have been disproportionately affected by HIV and Blacks account for 38% of HIV diagnoses attributable to male-to-male sexual contact.
In 2016, male-to-male sexual contact accounted for more than half (58%) of new HIV diagnoses among Blacks overall and a majority (79%) of new diagnoses among Black men.
Young Black gay and bisexual men are particularly affected, with those ages 13-24 representing over half (54%) of new HIV diagnoses among all gay and bisexual men in that age group.
In addition, newly diagnosed Black gay and bisexual men are younger than their white counterparts, with those ages 13-24 accounting for 36% of new HIV diagnoses among Black gay and bisexual men in 2016, compared to 15% among whites.
Problems enabling AIDS in the African American Community
African Americans have been and continue to be overrepresented in the HIV/AIDS epedmic. Currently, African Americans only account for roughly 12 percent of the United States population but 43 percent of the population is affected by AIDS. This statistic alone is enough to show that there is a big problem within the African American community. Black people are 10 times more likely to have AIDS than whites(nmac.org). With many medical and technological advances the number of cases and deaths of HIV/AIDS should be decreasing. For the African American community, it hasn’t decreased nearly as much as other races. While AIDS deaths among whites fell by 19% from 2000 to 2004, they declined only 7% among African Americans (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2006). This raises the obvious question, why is AIDS affecting the African American community the most and why is it not improving?
One of the reasons for AIDS affecting the African American community is poverty. Unable to afford additional healthcare while having children, a job, food, school, and rent there is little time or money to prevent against HIV/AIDS. In 2010 African Americans led the nation with 27.4 percent of the population living in poverty, over one of every four people (State of Working America). Often living in poverty means lack of education, lack of access to healthcare, increased risk of substance use and homelessness, and increased likelihood of engaging in sex work as a source of income. All are factors that can increase the risk of acquiring HIV. For those living in poverty who become HIV-positive, priorities do not change. Their concerns on a day-to-day basis are finding and maintaining income, keeping food on the table, and ensuring a place to sleep at night(hivequal.org).
Living in poverty also leads to the second problem, incarceration. Incarceration is one of the most important drivers of HIV infection among African Americans. In addition to in-prison HIV risk behavior, such as unprotected sex and injection drug use, formerly incarcerated persons play a big role in transmitting HIV to others following their release from prison or in between periods of incarceration. This is because infectious diseases are highly concentrated in corrections facilities: 15% of jail inmates and 22% of prisoners – compared to 5% of the general population – reported ever having tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, or other STDs(NAACP).
Life does not get easier after incarceration as most jobs will not accept you to be employed. A criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent. The negative impact of a criminal record is twice as large for African American applicants(NAACP). This causes one to fall back into a life of poverty, drugs and crime, further increasing the chances of contracting HIV/AIDS. In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population and are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women(NAACP). These two issues cause a devastating cycle to the African American community as these issues go hand in hand and both lead to an increased chance of HIV/AIDS.
Another reason for a high HIV/AIDS rate is the issue of drugs. Drug use is a particularly important risk factor for HIV infection among African Americans and Hispanics. Injection drug use accounts for more than 19% of new African-American HIV infections in this country (CDC, 2006). HIV infection associated with injection drug use was 2.4 times more prevalent among African Americans , respectively, than whites living with HIV/AIDS in the United States in 2004. In major cities poverty drugs and incarceration go hand in hand. Education on cleaning needles is not cared for or learned by much of the population. In a study of more than 8,000 patients in six cities by ME Betz and colleagues found that African-American women accounted for a disproportionately high percentage of AIDS-defining illness hospitalizations among women. Moreover, African Americans were more likely to be hospitalized with co- morbid mental health conditions than whites. They conclude:“These results emphasize the significant burden of co-morbid disease resulting from drug and alcohol use by adults infected with HIV, and support previous findings of an increased prevalence of substance abuse and psychiatric disorders among individuals with HIV” (Betz, Gabo and Barber, 2005).
The last and most unknown reason for a disparity in the African American community in regards to AIDS is limited sexual networks. While interracial dating continues to be on the rise in the United States, black people remain the minority group that has relationships outside of their race the least at 19 percent. This means that the majority of black people have sexual partners who are also black. Since African Americans are the biggest group affected by AIDS and are so close knit it was inevitable that once the black community was exposed to HIV it spread quicker and the negative impact was and continues to be greater. This means that black people who choose other black partners are more likely to come in contact with someone who is HIV-positive than other people who date within their race. This is especially true in LGBT communities as the CDC has reported that more than 1 in 4 black gay and bisexual men and 1 in 2 black transgender women are testing positive for HIV.