Abstract

African Americans account about 13.6% of the total U.S. population. Although this number is rather small in terms of percentage representation in the entire U.S. population, latest issues of HIV/AIDS infection among them are worrying. There are reports that this marginal population accounts for 50.3% of all the cases of HIV diagnoses in the United States. High HIV infection rates in this racial group have been generally stable since early 1990s. AIDS is, thus, the reason for increased mortality rates of African Americans of ages 19-44. The high rate of HIV infection among African American has been linked to the high rates of drugs and substance abuse in this population. Injecting drug users (IDUs) are likely to share drug materials such as needles, syringes and other items. Reversing this trend requires a focus on the factors that predispose this population to the risk of HIV/AIDS scourge.

Introduction

African Americans account for 13.6% of the total U.S. population. Although this population is rather small in terms of percentage representation in the entire U.S population, latest issues of HIV/AIDS infection among them are worrying (McCree et al., 2010). There are reports that this marginal population accounts for 50.3% of all the cases of HIV diagnoses in the United States. This is eight times the rate of diagnoses of the same infection among the whites. This proposal focuses on the high prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS infection among African Americans in the United States, and the reasons for this claim and any counter-arguments or rebuttals to it. The paper will also explore the possible intervention strategies in order to help change this trend.

HIV/AIDS Prevalence among African Americans

Although there are increased diagnoses of HIV/AIDS in the United States, cases of new infections and diagnoses are disproportionate. African Americans are increasingly getting diagnosed with HIV/AIDS infection (McCree, Jones & O'Leary, 2010). Thus, this makes this racial group in the United States to face the most severe burden of HIV/AIDS. Moreover, it is reported that African Americans account for 50.3% of the new HIV infections diagnosed in the United States. High HIV infection rates in this racial group have been generally stable since early 1990s. AIDS is, thus, the reason for increased mortality rates of African-Americans of ages 19-44. This mortality rate is ten times higher when African American populations are compared with other racial groups in the United States.

The trend of HIV diagnoses among the African Americans has been consistently rising, a factor that causes alarm. In 1986, approximately 20% of the population that lived with HIV/AIDS in the United States was African Americans. The latest CDC statistics indicate that this rate has risen to approximately 45% in 2010 (McCree et al., 2010). In the same year, black men accounted about 70% of the new HIV infections among the adult and adolescent population in the United States. The rate of new HIV infection was found to be seven times higher for the black men when compared to white men, twice as high relative to Latino men, three times higher than reported cases among their black female counterparts (Gilbert & Wright, 2003). Should this trend continue, there are concerns that by 2015, 5 to 6 of African American adults who are sexually active will be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

Black gay, bisexual and other men having sex with men represented 72% of new HIV infections in the United States in the year 2010. The non-black male gays, bisexuals and other men who were bisexuals accounted for only 28% of the new infections in the same year (McCree et al., 2010). Further, more new HIV infection diagnoses were reported among young black men aged 13-24 years who were involved in sex with other men (MSM) when compared to other demographic groups. Black women accounted about 29% of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescents in the year 2010 (Gilbert & Wright, 2003). Although this is still high, it represents 21% decline from the year 2008. In the HIV infections that were diagnosed among black women in this period, 87% were due to heterosexual sex (McCree et al., 2010). This rate is 20 times as high when black women are compared with white women, almost five times as high relative to the Latinos.

Reasons for High Rates of HIV Infection among African Americans

Among male African Americans, the increase in the number of men having sex with men (MSM) is partly responsible for the rise of HIV infections in this population. There are concerns that homosexuality, added to failure to use condoms and other safety precautions have led to increase in male African American gay getting infected with HIV/AIDS. It is reported that condom use among sexually active African American men is lower when compared to those of other racial groupings in the United States (McCree et al., 2010). This predisposes sexually active African American men to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS from their sex partners.

Studies on the background and prevalence on the AIDS-causing virus have indicated that the virus has its background among the African Americans (Stone, 2009). Besides, increase in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and infections have been reported to be higher among African American (Mehta, 2012). These STDs are likely to facilitate the spread of HIV/AIDS and render one more vulnerable to the disease as they lose their immunity to the STDs leaving the body cells too weak to resist further attack. Thus, this makes the Africans more vulnerable to infections with HIV/AIDS.

The high rate of HIV infection among African American population has been linked to the high rates of drugs and substance abuse in this population. Injecting drug users (IDUs) are likely to share drug materials such as needles, syringes and other items. Besides, under the influence of drugs, there are often high chances of drug addicts engaging in unprotected sex. This, further, facilitates the spread of the infection (McCree et al., 2010).

Access to health care and poverty are other reasons for increased HIV infection among African Americans. There are disparities in the access of healthcare facilities with African Americans and other minority racial groups likely to be disadvantaged. Those who cannot access health care services either because they are expensive or due to other reasons are likely to remain untested for a long time and risk spreading of the disease to other un-infected persons (Gilbert & Wright, 2003). Besides, inaccessibility of health care facilities is the likely reason for lack of awareness of HIV/AIDS status among this population. It is estimated that one out of 5 adults and adolescent African Americans living with HIV/AIDS are not aware of their status. The stigma that is associated with HIV/AIDS among African Americans makes them not able to discuss issues relating to the disease. HIV/AIDS is associated with white gay men and lesbians. Gay men may, thus, fail to share with their female partners their health conditions given the stigma of this disease. As a result, they end up spreading the disease further among themselves (Stone, 2009).

Counter Claims on the Prevalence of HIV among African Americans

Claims that HIV rates are high among African Americans have been disputed by many, especially, people from this racial group, making it a racial problem. There are counter arguments contending that the reports and statistics are inflated, moreover that most findings on the same issue with other racial groups, especially the whites are not published. Thus, researchers have been blamed for having skewed interests in the issue with narrow focus on one racial group (Mehta, 2012). Most whites and other racial groups are often reluctant to participate in studies involving testing their HIV status. This explains why most studies have been skewed exclusively towards vulnerability of the African Americans.

The claims that gayism and other homosexual behavior among African American explain high rates of HIV infection have also been refuted. According to researchers, gay relationships originated from white males and still form part of their sexual lives. There are more inter-racial marriages and relationships in the United States now than in the previous years (Mehta, 2012). Besides, with the introduction of affordable health care under the Obama Care Health policy, there is universal access to healthcare services by all racial groups irrespective of age, race, and economic status. Thus, more and more African Americans are able to access healthcare facilities and benefit from health services making them less susceptible to the infection. Besides, given that studies have given priority to this racial group, they have been able to access more services thus reducing their vulnerability to new infections (Mehta, 2012).

Solutions to the Problem of High HIV/AIDS Prevalence among African Americans

African Americans need to be encouraged in order to embrace safe sex practices. Practices such as use of latex condom should be encouraged (Mehta, 2012). Besides, there is need for investment into behavioral interventions such as reproductive health education to teach this population the risks of drug abuse and risky sexual behaviors. Sex partners should be encouraged to learn about their partners past sexual and drug use behaviors. This would make them take precautions for safe sex in order to reduce the risks of infection. Those who have been diagnosed with HIV infections should be encouraged to seek medication and treatment.

Harm reduction programs should be introduced to cater for men involved in sex with other men (MSM) and injecting drug users (IDU) who are more vulnerable to HIV infections given the risk behaviors associated with this demographic category. Programs such as needle syringe exchange programs should be made more effective by increasing accessibility and safety. This would help the injecting drug users in particular to overcome the risk of sharing injection materials such as needles and syringes among other items. This can be through outreach campaigns aimed at de-stigmatizing the disease (Stone, 2009).

Conclusion

Several studies have been conducted that indicated high prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS infection. When compared with other racial groups in the United States, African Americans are more susceptible to HIV infections due to risky behaviors and other challenges that face minority racial groups in the United States. Reversing this trend requires a focus on the factors that predispose this population to the risk of HIV/AIDS scourge.

References

  1. Gilbert, D. J., & Wright, E. M. (2003). African american women and HIV/AIDS: Critical responses. Westport, Conn: Praeger.
  2. McCree, D. H., Jones, K. T., & O'Leary, A. (2010). African americans and HIV/AIDS: Understanding and addressing the epidemic. New York: Springer.
  3. Rakesh, M. (2012). Strategies for awareness & prevention of HIV/AIDS among african americans: A hand book. Xlibris Corp.
  4. Stolley, K. S., & Glass, J. E. (2009). HIV/AIDS. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood Press.
  5. Stone, V. E. (2009). HIV/AIDS in U.S. communities of color. New York, NY: Springer.
Jun 7, 2018 in Health Category