World AIDS Day: Why are Blacks still suffering disproportionately from AIDS?

November 29, 2018

World AIDS Day is observed each year on December 1 and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and remember those who have died.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has been afflicting our country for more than three decades and is a disease that severely affects marginalized communities. It’s a well-known fact that Black people account for more than 13 percent of the population and 43 percent of new HIV infections, the majority being gay and bisexual men and transgender women.

But the question remains, why are so many black people disproportionately carrying the disease? Unfounded theories usually attribute this to black people engaging in riskier behavior, leading to contracting the disease. While not dismissing the fact that personal responsibility should always be taken into account, there has been no substantial evidence that has found that black populations engage in risky behaviors at any higher rates than other races and ethnicities.

With that being said, it’s time to have a conversation about the REAL reasons behind why black people suffer more at the hands of this pervasive disease.

Here are three factors that impact black people in the struggle with HIV:

Systemic racism

Changing laws haven’t done enough to up-heave a harmful system of oppression and almost 400 years of racism that have lead to countless disadvantages that black people battle to overcome on a daily basis. HIV impacts black populations disproportionately because the majority don’t have adequate access to the resources needed to learn about, prevent and treat the disease.

Through policies and procedures, institutionalized racism creates a system that implicitly and sometimes explicitly targets black people, leaving them severely disadvantaged.

Socioeconomic status

28.1 percent of black people are living in poverty compared to the national average of 15.9 percent according to the 2012 Census findings. These numbers reflect the fact that these black people that are living in poverty are, in part, a result of the limited opportunities for upward mobility afforded to them.

Often living in poverty means lack of education, lack of access to proper healthcare, increased risk of substance use, homelessness, mental health issues and heightened likelihood of participating in sex work for their main source of income. Obviously, all of these are factors that can dramatically increase the risk of contracting HIV. For those living in poverty who become HIV-positive, priorities are skewed.

Their survivalist mentality only lends itself to concerns on a day-to-day basis are finding and maintaining income, finding their next meal and ensuring a safe place to sleep at night.

Lack of support communities

Although interracial dating is a practice that’s starting to become more widely embraced in the United States, black people remain the minority group that has relationships outside of their race the least, at 19 percent. This means that the majority of black people have sexual partners who are within their race and more than likely have the same limited experiences and localized view of life. And given the smaller population size, once the black community was exposed to HIV it spread quickly and the negative impact was and continues to be greater.

This means that black people who choose other black partners are more likely to come in contact with someone who is HIV-positive than other people who date within their race and have the same stunted knowledge of health. This is especially true in the gay LGBTQA communities as the Center for Disease Control has reported findings that more than 1 in 4 black gay and bisexual men and 1 in 2 black transgender women have tested positive for HIV, compared to .06 percent of the general population.

With that being said, although these are challenging realities, there are resources available for those in need. Please visit Aids Source at https://aids.nlm.nih.gov/

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