Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, an important reminder of the unique challenges facing the black community in its fight against HIV/AIDS. African-Americans only account or 12 percent of the U.S. population, but make up 47 percent of all of the country's new HIV infections. Approximately one in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime, as well as one in 32 black women. Today, the Centers for Disease Control released new data on what's called the "HIV care continuum" showing that among blacks who had been diagnosed with HIV:
* 75 percent were linked to care.
* 48 percent stayed in care.
* 46 percent were prescribed antiretroviral therapy.
* 35 percent achieved viral suppression (i.e., the virus is under control at a level that helps keep people healthy and reduces the changes of transmitting the virus to others).
* Black males had lower levels of care and viral suppression than black females, and those who were younger (under 25) had lower levels than those who were older.
That data paints yet another bleak picture but, as Kali Lindsey writes at The Grio, there's reason to hope:
Since the beginning of 2014, health insurance programs expanded under the ACA are prohibited from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, and certain preventive services must now be provided at no cost to the beneficiary, including routine HIV screening. Historically, many people with HIV have been prevented from accessing healthcare services that we now know remain vital for those with HIV and beneficial overall to public health. Studies have shown initiating HIV treatment as early as possible is in the best interest of those living with HIV, but it also has the added public health benefit of reducing transmission rates if viral suppression can be achieved and sustained. This is why it is so important that, under the ACA, all plans must provide treatment to people who are HIV positive.
Last year, TheBody.com released a compelling infographic illustrating the multiple risk factors at play in black communities struggling with high HIV infection rates.