African-American leaders met with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other Department of Health and Human Services agencies this month in Atlanta, to discuss the HIV epidemic among African-Americans. The leaders outlined what is currently being done in HIV prevention in the African-American communities, and provided input on approaches to prevention that may be effective in African-American communities.
African-Americans have been disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. Representing an estimated 13 percent of the U.S. population, African-Americans have made up 36 percent of all AIDS cases reported to CDC. During the last decade, the proportion of new AIDS cases diagnosed among African-Americans has grown every year. In 1986, 25 percent of AIDS cases were among African-Americans, rising to forty three percent by 1996.
As a nation we need to understand that this epidemic is far from over," said Helene D. Gayle, M.D., M.P.H., Director of CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention. "New treatments are offering hope to those infected with HIV and we are thankful for that. But ultimately, preventing new infections in the first place is best. We must continue to look for innovative approaches that can effectively halt the spread of HIV in the African-American community--where there is such an urgent need."
CDC called the meeting because of alarming trends among African-Americans and the concern that approaches that have helped to decrease the spread of HIV among white gay men may not meet the prevention needs of the African-American community. While HIV dropped to the second leading cause of death in 25-to-44 year olds overall in 1996, it remains the leading cause of death for African-American men and women in this age group. Among women and children with AIDS, African-Americans have been especially affected, representing 56 percent of the total number of women reported with AIDS and 58 percent of reported pediatric AIDS cases.
It is imperative that we continue to support locally designed, scientifically sound, and culturally relevant programs that address the specific needs of African-Americans," stated Gayle. "This meeting was very important and I was pleased to see the passion that the representatives of the community brought to this meeting-and bring to their prevention work daily." Over 30 AIDS prevention leaders attended the two-day meeting in Atlanta where issues such as communication, policy, and AIDS education were discussed. Added Gayle, "We need their commitment and sense of urgency about the devastating effect that AIDS is having on African-Americans to reverberate throughout our nation. There has been far too much complacency lately about HIV prevention."
The impact of HIV/AIDS on African-Americans and other minorities is being addressed by the Clinton Administration in a special initiative recently announced by President Clinton to eliminate racial disparities in six key areas of health by the end of the next decade. As part of the Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Initiative, the President is committing to closing the racial gaps in HIV/AIDS infection rates by 2010. He is proposing $400 million over the next five years to fund this critical initiative that will improve the health status of minorities.