AIDS Cases Growing Among Black Arkansans
May 27, 2003
New AIDS cases among blacks in Arkansas increased nearly 60 percent between 2000 and 2002, while the number of new cases among whites dropped about 27 percent. In 2000, 82 new cases of AIDS were reported among black Arkansans. Last year, that number increased to 131, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. At the same time, the number of white Arkansans diagnosed with AIDS dropped from 116 to 85.Adapted from:
Officials say the rising infection rate in the black community is an information problem. Blacks who thought HIV was a gay, white, male issue are showing up in hospitals with AIDS. "As much education and information that's been out, it still hasn't hit us in the face yet," said Malik Blackmon, state coordinator for the newly created Minority AIDS Initiative.
The problem is not unique to Arkansas. Nationally, half of reported HIV cases in 2001 involved blacks, according to CDC. The state Health Department does not list HIV/AIDS cases with each county's racial breakdown, but Crittenden and Pulaski counties, which have large black populations, had the highest rates of new HIV cases. Through federal funding, the Minority AIDS Initiative has targeted central and eastern Arkansas for prevention education and HIV testing.
Stigma and denial are not the only reasons HIV/AIDS rates have jumped in the black community. With nearly one in four blacks living in poverty, according to CDC, black people do not have as much access to health care.
Churches need to start helping in the effort to inform the black community about AIDS, said Elvin Jackson, pastor of the mostly black Scope Christian Fellowship Church in Little Rock. "Everybody assumes that somebody is handling this AIDS problem," he said. "It's down in the white community, and then the black community is still assuming that somebody's handling it. And we're going to wake up and realize that unless we handle it, it won't be handled."
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.