As HIV/AIDS takes its toll on the black community, officials urge early diagnosis
African Americans make up about 14 percent of the U.S. population but account for half of new HIV diagnoses, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Maryland, some 78 percent of HIV/AIDS cases are African-Americans. At the end of 2009, 1 in 54 black men and 1 in 97 black women were living with HIV/AIDS.
With those sobering statistics in mind, health officials in Maryland and beyond are using today's National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to urge people to get tested and treated for the illness.
"With HIV, knowledge is power," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, state health secretary in a statement. "Getting tested and treated can save your life."
Raising awareness and combating the disparity in HIV cases is no small feat. Last year, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene provided testing, partner services and other interventions to more than 75,000 African Americans, but more work is needed to combat the epidemic, officials said.
Increasing access to testing and counseling services and reducing stigma are all needed to confront the problem, officials said.
The CDC's data show just how wide the racial disparity is: Black men are diagnosed with HIV at eight times the rate for white men and black women get diagnosed with the illness 19 times the rate for white women, according to the CDC's report, which comes from 2008 statistics from 37 states.
Here are more details on HIV/AIDS among blacks from the CDC.
And here's more information on events and resources for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.