Infection rates for African American men in the United States are twice as high as for Latino men and a shocking 7 times higher than for white men (see here). The African American community have higher rates of HIV infection at all stages from new infections to death. Indeed, despite only accounting for 12-14% of the US population, African Americans account for 44% of new HIV cases and, as a result, HIV is the second most common cause of death for African-American men between 35 and 44. The graph below, which is from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), shows the disproportionate burden of new HIV infections amongst Black MSM compared with other groups (For full report see here)
Estimates of New HIV Infections in the United States – 2010
The reasons for higher rates of HIV amongst the African American community are complicated, but socioeconomic factors (linked to higher poverty rates) are at least partly responsible for higher rates when compared with other groups and results in the African American population having poorer access to health care services (such as testing) and HIV prevention education. In addition, higher rates of stigma amongst certain communities almost certainly play a role in the disproportionately high number of HIV infection rates in Black MSM in the USA. A recent study has shown that although African American men are facing the issue of HIV, the social and epidemiological factors that this community faces overwhelm consistent strategies the community have adopted to reduce the risk of HIV exposure . In many ways it could be argued that the higher rates of HIV infection amongst African American men (in particular) represents something of an elephant in the room – everybody knows it, but it’s rarely spoken about (see exceptions in resources held by The Center for HIV Law and Policy). This is why campaigns such as the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with it’s tagline ‘Get educated, tested, involved and treated’ are so important’.
Banner for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, 2013
Although it is difficult to quantify, the situation is likely to be similar this side of the pond as well; here too many MSM who identify as black African face similar socioeconomic obstacles and the number of new HIV infections is higher than among the population generally. For this reason programmes that are focused on or inclusive of the black MSM community are so important. One example of work specifically targeted at the black African community in London is that of the Metro Centre who is leading a partnership with AAF (African Advocacy Foundation) called the GLC Partnership. They have been commissioned by HIV Prevention England to do work with the black African community in the 3 boroughs above, which show high prevalence rates of HIV, to reduce late diagnosis and increase testing amongst the black African community. This is particularly timely now that new legislation has been passed meaning that anyone is eligible for HIV related treatment, regardless of their immigration status. The first testing clinic will be at the AAF offices in Lewisham on 8/7/13 – keep a watch out for more updates on our Twitter!
GMI Partnership – we provide free support for gay and bisexual men who are having unprotected sex and who would like to play safe, this is regardless of the race or ethnicity of the client. That said, the relationship between elements of participants’ identities, such as their race or ethnicity are viewed as important factors in understanding sexual behaviour and are explored in our counselling and mentoring programmes, as well as in one-to-one health trainer sessions. For more information on our programmes see here