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No Link Between HIV and Poverty? Data Shows Otherwise

By Mathew Rodriguez

February 21, 2014

What puts one at risk for HIV? Contrary to what some people believe, "personal responsibility" is not the end-all-be-all of the HIV-risk equation. The most recently released HIV Surveillance Annual Report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene includes four ZIP code-level maps of the city, each with a different color coding system -- one coded by poverty levels, one by HIV diagnosis rates in 2012, one by HIV prevalence (the percentage of the population that is living with HIV) and one by age-adjusted death rates.


Geographic Distribution of HIV

Figure 5.1: Poverty Levels, NYC 2007-2011

Figure 5.1: Poverty Levels, NYC 2007-2011


Figure 5.2: HIV Diagnosis Rates, NYC 2012

Figure 5.2: HIV Diagnosis Rates, NYC 2012


Figure 5.3: HIV prevalence, NYC 2012

Figure 5.3: HIV prevalence, NYC 2012


Figure 5.4: Age-adjusted death rates, NYC 2012

Figure 5.4: Age-adjusted death rates, NYC 2012

ZIP codes in the Chelsea-Clinton, Central Harlem-Morningside Heights and Washington Heights-Inwood neighborhoods had the highest HIV diagnosis rates in 2012 (Figure 5.2). In 2012, ZIP codes in Chelsea-Clinton, West Queens and East Harlem had the highest HIV prevalence (Figure 5.3), and ZIP codes in Bayside-Little Neck, Port Richmond and Canarsie-Flatlands had the highest mortality among persons with HIV (Figure 5.4). Many ZIP codes with high HIV diagnosis rates also had among the highest poverty rates (Figure 5.1), including High Bridge-Morrisania, Hunts Point-Mott Haven and Crotona-Tremont. The Chelsea-Clinton neighborhood was the exception, with the highest HIV diagnosis rates in NYC but relatively low poverty and mortality rates.


The report states:

Many ZIP codes with high HIV diagnosis rates also had among the highest poverty rates, including High Bridge-Morrisania, Hunts Point-Mott Haven and Crotona-Tremont. The Chelsea-Clinton neighborhood was the exception, with the highest HIV diagnosis rates in NYC but relatively low poverty and mortality rates.

Putting aside Chelsea, which is a historical world epicenter of the HIV epidemic, it is clear that the HIV epidemic in every borough is concentrated among its most poverty-stricken areas. The areas mentioned above are all in the Bronx, while areas like Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, Jamaica and Far Rockaway in Queens, St. George in Staten Island, Washington Heights and Harlem all shoulder an unfair burden in terms of poverty and HIV diagnoses in the city.

What do you think of these maps? Do you still have questions about the link between poverty and HIV in urban areas?

Mathew Rodriguez is the editorial project manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.


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