New HIV infections among African American women have decreased by 21 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to new figures released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
African American women are far more affected by HIV/AIDS than other women in the USA, with the rate of new infections 20 times greater than white women and 5 times greater than Hispanic women. However, it is hoped that the improvement in rates of HIV infection among African American women will last. Joseph Prejean of the CDC told Reuters, “We are encouraged to see some declines among African-American women… They’ve been one of the most severely affected populations. We’re cautiously optimistic that this could be part of a longer-term trend.” Prejean also commented that this could be the result of public health and information campaigns successfully getting HIV prevention and testing messages across.
Many African American women are leading the way in fighting stigma and promoting HIV prevention. Last month, in an article for AVERT, HIV activist Hydeia Broadbent wrote about the importance of “arming our family members and neighbors with the tools to protect themselves from something that is 100% preventable”. This passion is also evident among the Black Women’s Health Imperative, an organisation dedicated to moving beyond simply documenting the health disparities that exist for Black women, and focusing on eliminating them. The decline in HIV infections could represent a positive step towards this goal.
The positive change in HIV incidence among this group has, however, been dampened by the stark 22 percent rise in new HIV infections among young gay and bisexual men over the same period. As a result, the USA’s HIV epidemic has had no significant change in new infections since the mid-1990’s. Many at-risk groups continue to bear the burden of HIV in the USA, with Hispanic populations also disproportionately affected.
Stigma about HIV, racial discrimination, homophobia and poverty are all major drivers of the HIV epidemic in the USA. However, in the USA one’s risk of contracting HIV is not necessarily linked to individual risky behavior, but rather, a person’s sexual network. Therefore, black males are much more likely to be living with HIV because of the high prevalence in this community and a tendency to choose racially similar partners, as opposed to simply high-risk behavior. For a great representation of the importance of remembering to consider one’s sexual network to prevent HIV, check out the winner of our Get Plugged In Infographic Competition.