In the United States, HIV – the virus that causes AIDS – affects African-Americans more than any other group. According to the Centers for Disease Control, African-American account for a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses, those living with HIV, and those ever diagnosed with AIDS, compared to other groups. In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, African-Americans accounted for 45 perceng of HIV diagnoses, while comprising only 12 percent of the US population.
World AIDS Day, which occurs each December 1, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease.
Since 2009, the National Urban League has partnered with the CDC to prevent HIV and AIDS and raise awareness – first, through the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative and more recently as part of Partnering and Communicating Together to Act Against AIDS (PACT).
1 in 8 people living with HIV in the United States don’t even know they have it. Not only are they not receiving HIV care and treatment, they are at high risk of unknowingly passing HIV to others. Because there is such a high prevalence of HIV among African-Americans, and people tend to have relationships with partners of the same race and ethnicity, African-Americans face a greater risk of HIV infection with each new sexual encounter.
Another contributing factor to the high rate of HIV and AIDS among African-Americans is the relatively higher poverty rate. Lower-income people have limited access to high-quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education.
We are at a moment in history where the heath care of millions of middle-class and low-income Americans is threatened, which would only serve to make the problem worse. Because the tax reform proposal now under consideration is expected to add at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt, it’s likely the imbalance will be offset by cuts to programs including Medicaid.
Medicaid is the single largest source of coverage for people with HIV in the U.S. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Medicaid expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act has had the most far reaching effects on people with HIV.
We will continue to fight for those living with HIV, those at risk, and the entire community not only through our participation in PACT, but also through our health care advocacy, and economic empowerment efforts.
World AIDS Day may be once a year, but the battle for justice goes on.
By Marc H. Morial