How common is HIV among African Americans?
Throughout the United States, HIV has disproportionately affected African-American communities. Though Blacks make up 13% of the U.S. population, they accounted for 42% of all new HIV infections in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black women accounted for more than half (58%) of HIV diagnoses among women.
Does HIV affect African Americans differently?
Advances in antiretroviral therapy have benefited all people living with HIV who have access to treatment. While AIDS-related deaths have declined overall, the decrease has been more dramatic among whites than among people of color. Socioeconomic issues such as higher rates of poverty, higher incarceration rates and limited access to quality health care are all factors that can contribute to the higher rates of HIV in the Black community. Stigma and discrimination may also be a reason why some African Americans do not seek out HIV testing or care.
African-American people are also at a higher risk for other health problems, which can make managing HIV more difficult. These health conditions include:
- High blood pressure and heart disease. Both conditions, which can lead to heart attacks and heart failure, are nearly 40% more common in Blacks than whites. Because antiretrovirals, and HIV itself, can further increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, monitoring heart health is an important part of medical care for African-American men and women living with HIV.
- Diabetes. Compared with whites, Blacks are almost twice as likely to develop this disease, where the body is unable to properly control the amount of sugar in the blood. Left untreated, diabetes can cause damage to the kidneys, eyes, heart and nerves. Antiretrovirals can increase the risk of blood sugar problems, so African Americans living with HIV may want to address the diabetes risk factors they can control: by exercising, eating healthy, keeping their weight down and having regular lab tests.
- Kidney disease. Blacks are nearly four times more likely to develop kidney disease compared with whites. What’s more, 85% of cases of HIV-related kidney damage, known as nephropathy, involve African Americans.
- Hepatitis C. Blacks are twice as likely to suffer from the life-threatening type of liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) compared with whites. Fortunately, hepatitis C can now be treated and cured with antiviral medications in just eight to 12 weeks.
Last Reviewed: June 10, 2020