The numbers are even more striking for new AIDS cases: 66 percent of AIDS cases reported in 2000 were among African Americans and Latinos. Almost half (47 percent) of all AIDS cases reported last year were among African Americans, even though they only comprise 12 percent of the U.S. population. The rate of new AIDS cases among African Americans was almost nine times higher than it was for whites in 2000.
Other communities of color, including Asian and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans/Alaskan Natives, have HIV infection rates that are currently lower than whites, although their rates are also growing. Some studies have suggested that HIV/AIDS is under-reported in these two population groups, with cases routinely misclassified as white.
|People Living With AIDS in Communities of Color Through 2000|
|Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders||2,673|
|Native Americans/Alaskan Natives||1,120|
|* This number represents 62 percent of people living with AIDS in the United States. [Source CDC 2001, Vol. 12:2]|
African American men who have sex with men are at two to three times higher risk for HIV infection than white men who have sex with men. While homophobia affects all communities, in the African American community it may result in disproportionate numbers of African American men not self-identifying as gay. Closeted gay men and those who do not self identify as gay are more likely to engage in casual or anonymous sex; these sexual activities are more likely to occur without a discussion of condom use and safer sex.
Similarly, even though many more whites inject drugs than African Americans and Latinos, four out of every five injection drug users with HIV infection in the U.S. are African American or Latino. Injection drug use is also a significant factor in the high rates of HIV infection found in U.S. jails and prisons as a result of the disproportionate numbers of African Americans and Latinos who are incarcerated for drug-related offenses. HIV infection rates among incarcerated populations are seven times higher than the general U.S. population.
For women of color, as for all women, heterosexual transmission overtook injection drug use as the primary risk factor for HIV/AIDS years ago. Today, the greatest risk factor for American women, including women of color, is their male sexual partners. Again, geography is a strong factor. Women living in AIDS epicenters -- as many women of color do -- are at greater risk of HIV infection because there is a higher chance that their sexual partners will be infected with HIV. One-third of all women of color living in inner cities are at high risk for HIV infection as a result of the sexual and drug-using behaviors of their sexual partners. Many are completely unaware that a partner engages in high-risk behavior, such as male-to-male sex or injection drug use.
Campaigns to inform communities of color about their risk of HIV and the behaviors that put them at-risk can be effective. Prevention programs and care providers need to tailor their messages and efforts in order to target specific communities by overcoming cultural and linguistic barriers as well as offering services that meet the needs of the targeted population. Hopefully these activities will help reduce the stigma and misconceptions currently associated with HIV/AIDS among communities of color.
To address these concerns, as well as the disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS in communities of color, funding sources have been created to direct funds to communities that need them most. The Minority AIDS Initiative, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Asian Pacific Caucus and other Congressional leaders, focuses attention on equal access to HIV prevention and care services for communities of color. Created in response to growing numbers of HIV infection rates in communities of color, the initiative provides funds above pre-existing federal funding levels for community-based organizations, faith communities, minority-serving colleges, and various state and local institutions to target funding for the communities most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.