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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
Kai Chandler Lois Crenshaw Gary Paul Wright Fortunata Kasege Keith Green Lois Bates Greg Braxton Vanessa Austin Bernard Jackson


HIV Among African Americans

February 6, 2018

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Blacks/African Americans1 account for a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses, those living with HIV, and those who have ever received an AIDS diagnosis, compared to other races/ethnicities. In 2016, African Americans accounted for 44% of HIV diagnoses, though they comprise 12% of the U.S. population.2

The Numbers

HIV and AIDS Diagnoses3

In 2016:

  • 17,528 African Americans received an HIV diagnosis in the United States (12,890 men and 4,560 women).
  • More than half (58%, 10,223) of African Americans with diagnosed HIV were gay or bisexual men.4
  • Among African American gay and bisexual men who received an HIV diagnosis, 39% (3,993) were young men aged 25 to 34.

From 2011 to 2015:

  • HIV diagnoses decreased 8% among African Americans overall.
  • HIV diagnoses decreased 16% among African American heterosexual men.
  • The number of HIV diagnoses among African American women fell 20%, though it is still high compared to women of other races/ethnicities. In 2016, 4,560 African American women received an HIV diagnosis, compared with 1,450 white women and 1,168 Hispanic/Latina women.5
  • HIV diagnoses decreased 39% among African Americans who inject drugs.6
  • HIV diagnoses among African American gay and bisexual men remained stable.
  • HIV diagnoses among young African American gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 remained stable.
  • HIV diagnoses among African American gay and bisexual men aged 25 to 34 increased 30%.

Living With HIV and Deaths

  • At the end of 2014, an estimated 471,500 African Americans were living with HIV (43% of everyone living with HIV in the United States), and 16% were unaware of their infection.
  • Among all African Americans living with HIV in 2014, 84% had received a diagnosis, 59% received HIV medical care in 2014, 46% were retained in HIV care, and 43% had a suppressed viral load.7
  • In 2015, 3,379 African Americans died from HIV disease, accounting for 52% of total deaths attributed to the disease that year.

HIV Diagnoses in the United States for the Most-Affected Subpopulations, 2016

HIV Diagnoses in the United States for the Most-Affected Subpopulations, 2016

Source: CDC. Diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States and dependent areas, 2016. HIV Surveillance Report 2017;28.
Subpopulations representing 2% or less of HIV diagnoses are not reflected in this chart.

Prevention Challenges

In all communities, lack of awareness of HIV status contributes to HIV risk. People who do not know they have HIV cannot take advantage of HIV care and treatment and may unknowingly pass HIV to others.

A number of challenges contribute to the higher rates of HIV infection among African Americans. The greater number of people living with HIV (prevalence) in African American communities and the tendency for African Americans to have sex with partners of the same race/ethnicity mean that African Americans face a greater risk of HIV infection. Some African American communities also experience higher rates of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than other racial/ethnic communities in the United States. Having another STD can significantly increase a person's chance of getting or transmitting HIV.

Stigma, fear, discrimination, and homophobia may place many African Americans at higher risk for HIV. Also, the poverty rate is higher among African Americans than other racial/ethnic groups. The socioeconomic issues associated with poverty -- including limited access to high-quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education -- directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with and at risk for HIV. These factors may explain why African Americans have worse outcomes on the HIV continuum of care, including lower rates of linkage to care and viral suppression.

What CDC Is Doing

CDC and its partners are pursuing a high-impact prevention approach and maximizing the effectiveness of current HIV prevention methods. Some of CDC's activities include:

  • Support for health departments and community-based organizations to deliver effective prevention interventions for African Americans and other populations.
    • A new funding opportunity that directs resources to the populations and geographic areas of greatest need, while supporting core HIV surveillance and prevention efforts across the United States.
    • Support for health departments to develop comprehensive models of prevention, care, and social services for gay and bisexual men of color living with or at risk for HIV, as well as training and technical assistance to implement and sustain those models.
    • A funding opportunity that began in 2017 to implement comprehensive HIV prevention programs for young gay and bisexual men of color.
  • Three funding opportunities that began in 2015 to help health departments reduce HIV infections and improve HIV medical care among gay and bisexual men of color. These funding opportunities will increase gay and bisexual men's access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), increase health departments' surveillance capacity, and support effective models of prevention and care for gay and bisexual men of color.
  • The Act Against AIDS campaigns, including
    • Let's Stop HIV Together, which raises HIV awareness and fights stigma among all Americans and provides many stories about people living with HIV;
    • Doing It, a national HIV testing and prevention campaign that encourages all adults to know their HIV status and protect themselves and their community by making HIV testing a part of their regular health routine;
    • Start Talking. Stop HIV. which helps gay and bisexual men communicate about safer sex, testing, and other HIV prevention issues.
    • HIV Treatment Works, which shows how people living with HIV have overcome barriers to stay in care and provides resources on how to live well with HIV; and
    • Partnering and Communicating Together (PACT) to Act Against AIDS, a 5-year partnership with organizations such as the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Urban League, and the Black Men's Xchange to raise awareness about testing, prevention, and retention in care among populations disproportionately affected by HIV, including African Americans.
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.

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