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Disparities in Diagnoses of HIV Infection Between Blacks/African Americans and Other Racial/Ethnic Populations -- 37 States, 2005-2008

February 4, 2011

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Editorial Note

During 2005-2008, HIV infection was diagnosed more often among black/African American men and women than among men and women of any other racial/ethnic population, with rates increasing among black/African American men. In nearly every demographic and transmission category, the largest percentages of HIV diagnoses were among blacks/African Americans, with the disparity most pronounced among persons aged 13-24 years, women, and persons with infection attributed to heterosexual contact. A recent study of estimated lifetime risk for diagnosis of HIV infection found that blacks/African Americans had the highest lifetime risk for receiving an HIV diagnosis (one in 22), compared with whites (one in 170) and Hispanics/Latinos (one in 52).4 Correlations have been found between higher rates of HIV infection among blacks/African Americans and social and contextual factors such as disproportionately higher prevalence rates of other sexually transmitted infections and poverty. In addition, environmental factors such as housing conditions and social support are key drivers for infection. Comprehensive approaches to address disparities should take into account patient-specific behavioral risk factors, such as having multiple sex partners and unprotected sex, in addition to underlying factors, such as poverty, unequal access to health care, incarceration, lack of education, stigma, homophobia, sexism, and racism.5,6

HIV testing is a key pillar of a comprehensive approach to reduce disparities in rates of HIV diagnoses. CDC recommends routine HIV screening in all health-care settings for persons aged 13-64 years.7 The higher rates of diagnoses among blacks/African Americans suggest that adolescents and adults from this population who are at higher risk for HIV infection might benefit from more frequent testing to facilitate earlier diagnosis. Persons infected with HIV who know their status can be referred to medical care and treatment that can improve the quality and length of their lives and to prevention services that can reduce the risk for further transmission.8


Men who have sex with men (MSM) comprise the largest group of blacks/African Americans living with HIV in the United States.2 In a recent study of gay, bisexual, and other MSM who resided in 21 cities, 59% of black/African American MSM infected with HIV were unaware of their infection.9 Among MSM aged 18-29 years, HIV prevalence was highest among black/African American MSM.9 Black/African American gay, bisexual, and other MSM should be tested at least annually. Efforts to ensure annual HIV testing for black/African American MSM should be strengthened, and HIV testing and prevention programs should develop novel strategies to ensure routine and ongoing testing among young black/African American MSM. Strategies to reduce HIV infection and decrease the racial/ethnic disparities must include MSM as a high-priority population.

The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, the estimates of HIV diagnoses are from 37 states and thus do not represent all HIV diagnoses in the United States. HIV surveillance data from several high-morbidity areas (e.g., California, the District of Columbia, and Illinois) are not yet available; however, the racial/ethnic disparities described in this report are consistent with disparities observed among persons diagnosed with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) from all 50 states.2 Finally, the statistical adjustment procedures applied to HIV surveillance data to account for reporting delay are subject to a degree of uncertainty that might result in overestimation or underestimation of the rates.2 However, this uncertainty would be applied similarly across the various racial/ethnic categories and would not affect data for blacks/African Americans disproportionately.

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy emphasizes the importance of improving the effectiveness of HIV prevention efforts in the black/African American community and recommends that prevention efforts be aligned with the morbidity and disparity of HIV among blacks/African Americans and resources targeted appropriately.3 To address disparities in the prevalence and incidence of HIV infection, CDC conducts research and supports programs for HIV prevention among blacks/African Americans in the United States. These efforts include the Act Against AIDS communications campaign,** which addresses complacency, lack of knowledge, and misperceptions about HIV in the United States. In addition, in 2010, CDC announced a second 3-year expanded HIV testing program that supplements an initiative started in 2007 to increase HIV testing among blacks/African Americans.†† Ongoing and increased HIV testing and efforts to ensure referral and access to HIV-related primary medical care are warranted. Lack of knowledge of HIV status and missed opportunities to diagnose HIV in routine clinical settings7 are contributing factors to the HIV epidemic among blacks/African Americans.


  1. CDC. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) among blacks and Hispanics -- United States. MMWR 1986;35:655-66.
  2. CDC. Diagnoses of HIV infection and AIDS in the United States and dependent areas, 2008: HIV surveillance report, volume 20. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2010. Accessed November 1, 2010.
  3. Office of National AIDS Policy. National HIV/AIDS strategy. Washington, DC: Office of National AIDS Policy; 2010. Accessed November 1, 2010.
  4. CDC. Estimated lifetime risk for diagnosis of HIV Infection among Hispanics/Latinos -- 37 states and Puerto Rico, 2007. MMWR 2010;59:1297-301.
  5. Aral SO, Adimora AA, Fenton KA. Understanding and responding to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in African Americans. Lancet 2008;372:337-40.
  6. CDC. Establishing a holistic framework to reduce inequities in HIV, viral hepatitis, STDs, and tuberculosis in the United States. External consultation meeting report. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2009. Accessed January 27, 2011.
  7. CDC. Vital Signs: HIV testing and diagnosis among adults -- United States, 2001-2009. MMWR 2010;59:1550-5.
  8. Marks G, Crepaz N, Janssen RS. Estimating sexual transmission of HIV from persons who are unaware and aware that they are infected with the virus in the USA. AIDS 2006;20:1447-50.
  9. CDC. Prevalence and awareness of HIV infection among men who have sex with men -- 21 cities, United States, 2008. MMWR 2010;59:1201-7.

* Additional information is available at

† Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

§ For ethnicity, persons are categorized as "Hispanic or Latino" or "not Hispanic or Latino." Persons categorized as Hispanic/Latino might be of any race and are referred to in this report as Hispanic/Latino. For race, persons are categorized as "American Indian/Alaska Native," "black/African American," "Asian," "Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander," "white," or "multiple races." Persons categorized by race are all non-Hispanic/Latino.

Northeast: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont; Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin; South: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia; West: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

** Additional information is available at

†† Additional information is available at

What is already known on this topic?

Blacks/African Americans have been affected disproportionately with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection since early in the epidemic.

What is added by this report?

Disparities persist, with blacks/African Americans accounting for half of HIV diagnoses in adolescents and adults in 37 states during 2005-2008, despite representing a smaller proportion (13.6%) of the population.

What are the implications for public health practice?

Efforts to ensure annual HIV testing for black/African American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) and persons at high risk (e.g., multiple partners or unprotected sex) for infection should be strengthened. HIV testing and prevention programs should develop novel strategies to ensure routine and ongoing testing among young black/African American MSM.

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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
See Also's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
More HIV Statistics on the African-American Community


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