Low-Income Black Men Have Highest AIDS-Related Death Rates

Despite medical advancements, rates among Black women are also still high.

Posted: 10/21/2012 11:16 PM EDT
Filed Under Health News, HIV, AIDS

The good news: Since the development of anti-retroviral treatment (HAART) in the mid-to late ‘90s, AIDS-related deaths in the U.S. between the years 1993-2007 are down. The bad news: A new study found that African-Americans, especially males with little education and who live at or below the poverty level, still have the highest mortality rates.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society examined data on HIV-related deaths among 91,307 adults ages 25 to 64 in 26 U.S. states between 1993 and 2007. They found that among men with education higher than high school, the numbers had decreased dramatically. American Medical News reported:

Among Black men with a college degree or higher, HIV deaths decreased between 1993 and 2007 from 117.89 per 100,000 population to 15.35 per 100,000. For similarly educated Hispanic men, the rate dropped from 49.84 deaths to 3.13 per 100,000 during the same period. Among white men, the rate declined from 26.42 deaths to 1.79.

For African-American men with less than a high school degree during the most recent years of the available data — 2005-2007 — the numbers were almost three times higher than their more educated Black counterparts. Researchers found that low educated Black men had a death rate of 52.71 deaths per 100,000 compared with 9.01 per 100,000 Hispanic men and 5.04 per 100,000 white men.

When looking at Black women with low education between the years 1993-2007, the death rate remained pretty much the same: 29.89 deaths per 100,000 in 1993-95 and 26.76 in 2005-07.

And despite knowing that we are disproportionately impacted (pdf) by the HIV/AIDS epidemic — we account for 14 percent of the population and yet nearly half of all new infections each year — these findings are incredibly problematic and eye opening. Since the development of HAART, HIV/AIDS went from being an automatic death sentence to a chronic manageable disease, but that isn’t ringing true for African-Americans. Just look at the recent death rates among uneducated Black men from 2005-2007: Those numbers are higher than white men with AIDS from the 1993-1996, when the medicines were not readily available. And the fact that Black women’s death rates have basically stayed the same in the wake of modern medicine shows that something here just isn’t right.

Researchers believe that these death rates are partially due to the fact that so many African-Americans, especially those who are low income, don’t have equal access to anti-retrovirals that can save their lives, Med City News reported:

That, the researchers say, may be because they don't know they have HIV, don't know about HIV prevention or they don't have access to the health care system.

"[The findings] suggest that it's really those that have the least amount of access who are really worst off, and our efforts need to target those people," said Jennifer Kates, vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, DC.

Hopefully this study will usher in more research and grassroots work that understand the complexity of not just linking people to care, but also retaining them into care down the road.

Learn more about HIV/AIDS and African-Americans here.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

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