Here is a snapshot of HIV/AIDS as it relates to African Americans/Blacks in the United States.  It is estimated that at some point in their lifetimes, 1 in 16 Black Men and 1 in 32 Black Women will be diagnosed with HIV infection.  In 2010 alone, approximately 16,188 African Americans/Blacks were diagnosed with AIDS in the United States, this is a number that has slowly declined since 2007.  However, as of December 31, 2009, an estimated 250,745 African Americans/Blacks with an AIDS diagnosis had died in the United States alone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010, while African Americans/Blacks only represented 12% to 14% of the United States population, African Americans/Blacks accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years of older)

For 2010 alone, Black men accounted for 70% (14,700) of the estimated 20,900 new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent blacks. The estimated rate of new HIV infection for Black men (103.6/100,000 population) was seven times as high as that of white men, twice as high as that of Latino men, and nearly three times as high as among Black women.

In 2010, Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) represent an estimated72% (10,600) of new infections among all Black men and 36% of an estimated 29,800 new HIV infections among all MSM. Even more, there were more new HIV infections (4,800) occurring among young Black MSM (aged 13-24) than any other age or racial group of MSM.

In 2010, Black women accounted for 29% (6,100) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent Blacks. This number represents a decrease of 21% since 2008. Most HIV infections among Black women (87%; 5,300) are attributed to heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for Black women (38.1/100,000 population) was 20 times as high as the rate for white women, and almost five times as high as that of Latinas.

The AIDS diagnosis rate per 100,000 among Black adults/adolescents was 9 times that of whites in 2008.  The AIDS diagnosis rate for Black men (85.5) was the highest of any group, followed by Black women (39.9).  By comparison, the rate among white men was 10.  The rate of new infections is also highest among Blacks and was 7 times greater than the rate among whites in 2006.

Among the U.S. population overall, Blacks are more likely than whites to report having been tested for HIV in the last 12 months (40% compared to 14%).  Among those who are HIV positive, CDC data indicates that 33% of Blacks were tested for HIV late in their illness—that is, diagnosed with AIDS within one year of testing positive for HIV (in those states/areas with HIV name reporting); by comparison, 30% of whites and 36% of Latinos were tested late.

The number of new HIV infections per year among Blacks is down from its peak in the late 1980s, but has exceeded the number of infections among whites since that time; new infections have remained stable in recent years.

A recent analysis of 1999–2006 data from a national household survey found that 2% of Blacks in the U.S. (among those ages 18–49) were HIV positive, significantly higher than whites (0.23%). Also, the prevalence of HIV was higher among Black men (2.64%) than Black women (1.49%).

From 2005–2008, the rate of HIV diagnoses among Blacks increased from 68 per 100,000 persons to 74 per 100,000. This increase reflects the largest increase in rates of HIV diagnoses by race or ethnicity.

Of all Black men living with HIV/AIDS, the primary transmission category was sexual contact with other men, followed by injection drug use and high risk heterosexual contact. We have to do more work within Black male communities to make them feel a part of the whole, regardless of sexual orientation. When Black men feel safe, affirmed, and loved – they will not put themselves at risk of disease or in harm’s way. We have to speak against those who would bully or intimidate Black men, this can cause them to develop and internalize feelings of self-hate and self-destruction thus putting themselves at risk for disease, hurt, harm, and danger.

Of all Black women living with HIV/AIDS, the primary transmission category was high risk heterosexual contact, followed by injection drug use. Our work has to be inclusive of giving Black women back their worth and value. We know that Black women love hard and love strong, sometimes forgetting about the basic needs of survival when it comes to sexual behavior. We must begin to teach our girls and women that protection is the best thing to use when you do not know the sexual history or HIV status of their partner. We have to make sex a common and comfortable conversation piece to discuss and remove the stigma and shame around it.

Of the estimated 141 infants perinatally infected with HIV, 91 (65%) were Black (CDC, HIV/AIDS Reporting System, unpublished data, December 2006). There is no reason for children to be born with HIV or AIDS in America, this country has one of the best health care systems in the world, especially when it comes to preventing perinatal HIV infection. We must ensure that our pregnant sisters get tested for HIV early and access the necessary treatment and support to prevent transmitting the disease to the unborn child.

There are approximately 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S, including more than 500,000 who are Black. When we know better, we tend to do better and we hope having an idea of how big this epidemic is in the United States alone will help gain your support for this effort. Generations to come will look back at us and wonder why HIV/AIDS was, or will they? Let’s make AIDS history in our lifetime.