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New York Times Examines Disparity Between Black, White HIV/AIDS Patients in United States

August 9, 2004

Although AIDS-related death rates in the United States have "sharply dropped" over the past eight years as antiretroviral therapy has become increasingly available, AIDS is "still a killer" among African Americans, the New York Times reports. In 2002, nearly twice as many blacks than whites died from AIDS-related causes, "a gap that has been increasing since 1998," according to the Times. Researchers have attributed the disparity to later diagnosis of HIV among blacks, medical care that is inferior to the care received by whites and an increased prevalence among blacks of co-infection with other diseases or other health problems. HIV-positive African Americans are less likely than HIV-positive whites to receive life-sustaining medications because they are more likely than whites to be uninsured or underinsured. In addition, African Americans have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, some forms of cancer, asthma, sexually transmitted diseases and other illnesses, all complicating HIV/AIDS treatment, according to the Times.

"Different, Unequal" Epidemics
Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, director of AIDS research at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said he believes there are "two very different and unequal tracks of HIV treatment and care in the U.S.," the Times reports. He said, "In the ideal track, a person discovers they are HIV-infected, seeks medical care, has regular follow-up and avoids complications by taking a regimen reliably," but in the other path, patients "come to the hospital with full-blown AIDS as their initial diagnosis." Kuritzkes added, "By and large, the deaths are among this group, which tends to be African-American." Dr. Valerie Stone, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, said, "[I]t is now clear that management of this very complex disease is much more difficult than just taking pills, particularly for my African-American patients who often have very difficult life challenges." She added, "So now when I go to these international AIDS meetings and hear that the problem is solved here, I get incredibly angry. This epidemic is out of control in the black community. There is no magic bullet" (Villarosa, New York Times, 8/7).

Online A Kaiser Family Foundation survey on minorities and AIDS, titled "Survey of American on HIV/AIDS: Part Three -- Experiences and Opinions by Race/Ethnicity and Age" and cited in the Times article, is available online.

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