HIV racial disparity grows

HIV racial disparity grows

CHAMPAIGN — The racial/ethnic disparity in the HIV/AIDS epidemic has grown over time, health experts say.

Blacks continue to be disproportionately affected by this sexually transmitted infection and disease.

Black Americans account for 12 percent of the U.S. population — but 44 percent of all new HIV infections (in 2009) and 46 percent of people living with HIV disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some other CDC findings/projections:

— One in 16 black men and one in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection during their lifetimes.

— HIV-related deaths and the HIV death rates are highest among blacks.

— There was a 48 percent increase in new HIV infections from 2006-2009 among young black men who have sex with men ages 13-29.

— Most black women are infected by heterosexual contact, and account for 30 percent of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks. The rate of new HIV infection for black women is more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as for Latino women.

In the general population, about 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV infection, and one in five is unaware he or she is infected, according to government statistics.

Two of the reasons blacks are disproportionately infected is women fail to know their partners are infected, and lack of access to health care, said Candi Crause, director of infectious disease at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

The CDC encourages routine HIV screening through health care providers, she said, but those without access to a provider are likely missing that screening.

The health district offers testing without residency requirements and also takes its services on the road, she said.

"Today, we're at Eastern Illinois University," Crause said Feb. 8, the day after National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The district also has state grant funding to target the spread of HIV among blacks in an ongoing program launched two years ago called Brother to Brother, Crause said.

That program targets black men having sex with men, and works through both peer-based interventions and social events, Crause said.

"We do those groups every six to eight weeks," she said.

Anyone interested in more information about Brother to Brother can email Crause at ccrause@c-uphd.org or call 531-5372.

For more information about HIV testing and services through the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, see the website at http://www.c-uphd.org.

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