Courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial
Courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial

Ahead of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data to highlight factors contributing to continuing HIV disparities. 

The Agency said that despite overall progress in reducing HIV transmission in the United States, HIV affects some groups more than others due to longstanding and ingrained barriers. 

According to CDC estimates, Black people account for a higher proportion of new HIV infections than other races and ethnicities. 

Additionally, Black people accounted for 13% of the U.S. population but 40% of people with HIV in 2019. 

A CDC report published on Feb. 3 found that 52% of Black adults with diagnosed HIV resided in areas in the country with higher Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) scores —often residentially segregated communities comprised predominantly of Black people. 

SVI refers to the potential negative effects on communities caused by external stresses on human health. Such strains include natural or human-caused disasters or disease outbreaks.  

The report underscores the continuing, urgent need to address the social determinants that contribute to disparities and better deliver HIV prevention and care to people who need it most, said the CDC.

“HIV disparities can and must end,” the CDC wrote. 

“Racism, longstanding systemic inequities, social and economic marginalization, residential segregation, unequal reach of HIV prevention and treatment, and higher levels of HIV in some communities are among the factors that have contributed to these troubling and persistent disparities.”

A separate report by New York State health officials and CDC found that COVID-19 vaccination coverage was lower among adults with HIV than the general adult population; and that Black people with HIV were among groups with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination coverage. 

In addition, people engaged in HIV care were more likely to be vaccinated than people not involved in HIV care.

The Agency said it’s working with partners on many fronts, and through the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative, to focus resources on communities in need. 

“The advanced, highly effective HIV prevention and treatment tools and COVID-19 vaccines that have been accessed by some must be accessible to all,” Demetre Daskalakis, director of CDC’s HIV Prevention Program said. 

“While there is no simple solution to equity, our nation must finally tear down the wall of factors—systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, HIV-related stigma, and other ingrained barriers—that still obstructs these tools against HIV and COVID-19 from equitably reaching the people who could benefit from them.”

The National AIDS Memorial marked Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with an online memorial honoring those who died of the virus. 

Available to view by the public by visiting www.aidsmemorial.org, a virtual exhibition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and engraved names in the National AIDS Memorial Grove honors those lost during 40 years of the pandemic and the continuing impact of HIV in the Black community today. 

“Our hope is that these online programs help raise greater awareness about the ongoing struggle with HIV and the impact systemic barriers have on positive health outcomes, particularly in the Black community,” CEO John Cunningham said. 

“This collection of powerful stories are part of the hope, healing and remembrance these two national treasures – the Grove and the Quilt – bring to our nation throughout the year.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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