Researchers Highlight Disproportionate HIV Incidence Among African Americans, Recommend Plan of Action

African Americans are still disproportionately affected by HIV compared with other ethnic groups.

Despite recent drops in HIV diagnoses among all populations across the United States, there are still disparities among ethnic groups, with African Americans being disproportionately affected by the virus compared with whites.

Using CDC data, such as the 2010 and 2016 HIV Surveillance Report, researchers observed that although African Americans represent 12% of the US population, they accounted for 43% of all HIV cases in the US in 2014 and 44% of new diagnoses in 2016.

They also found that some trends have worsened over time. In 2005, African Americans were 7.9 times more likely to be diagnosed than whites, increasing to 8.4 times more likely in 2016, indicating that the disparity in incidence rates continues to grow. The number of African American males diagnosed with HIV increased by 29% during the same period (9969 vs 12,890).

There are also disparities seen within the population. Among infected African Americans, more than half (58%) were men who have sex with men. In 2016, the estimated annual HIV diagnosis rate among African American males was 82.8 per 100,000, whereas the estimated annual rate for African American females was approximately one-third of that (26.2 per 100,000).

“Although measures have been taken in the last decade to address the epidemic, more effective strategies must be implemented, especially in communities where African Americans primarily reside, to close this disparity,” the researchers wrote.

To address these disparities, the research team recommended a 5-part plan for community leaders and other stakeholders to implement:

  1. Immerse: Be out and active in African American communities and participate in free or reduced cost testing in your area.
  2. Be nonjudgmental: Work to eliminate prejudices and unconscious biases in treating patients.
  3. Be knowledgeable: Understand new approaches to treatment, nuances in medications, and other issues related to HIV/AIDS.
  4. Advocate: Speak out and call attention to the epidemic and its impact in the African American community and recruit other advocates in the effort.
  5. Innovate: Society must continue to be proactive and create solutions that evolve with the times and the changing needs of the affected populations.

“Meeting people ‘where they are’ and the implementation of more culturally appropriate solutions are the actions that have shown the greatest efficacy,” wrote the researchers. They continued, “As community leaders, the public health sector, policy makers, public health practitioners, and other stakeholders need to address the issues of access, stigma, and the socioeconomic factors that are underlying the disease, as well as encourage safe practices and testing in their patient population and the community at-large.”


Laurencin CT, Murdock CJ, Laurencen L, Christensen DM. HIV/AIDS and the African American community 2018: a decade call to action [published online June 4, 2018]. J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. doi: 10.1007/s40615-018-0491-0.

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