Program Note: In CNN’s Black in America, Soledad O’Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Senior Medical Producer
Purcell was the first to be diagnosed. He was young, black (and beautiful) and gay. He thought he had his whole life ahead of him. He looked so scared when he told me "I have it, I have AIDS" and I was scared for him. That, it seemed, was just the beginning. Van, BG, Grayling, Glen. All young black men–friends of mine–whose lives were cut short by that deadly disease. None of them dreamed it would happen to them. After all it was supposed to be a gay white man's disease. That was twenty-five years ago. Who knew it would be a precursor of things to come? Today in America AIDS is a Black disease.
The Black AIDS Institute has just released a new report full of stunning and startling statistics on just how pervasive this disease has become in the Black community, and reveals shocking similarities between the AIDS epidemic among African Americans and some of the world's poorest countries. In Alabama, Blacks are 26 % of the population but make up 69% of all new HIV/AIDS cases. In Detroit, Michigan HIV infection rates are higher than Rwanda and Kenya–who has one of highest rates in the world. In Jackson, Mississippi, 84% of those living with AIDS are Black. In New York City the rate of infection among African Americans is higher than in Nigeria. And in Washington, DC, the nation's capital, more than 80% of HIV cases are among Blacks – that's one in 20 residents!
According to this report, if the approximately 39 million African Americans living in the United States were their own country it would rank 16th in the world for people living with HIV. Infection rates would surpass some of the most heavily affected countries like Botswana, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast. Incredibly only 4 countries outside sub-Saharan Africa have higher rates of infection than Black Americans! The number of Blacks in this country with HIV is greater than 7 of the 15 countries the United States provides funding for through the President's Emergency Plan For Aids Relief or PEPFAR.
The CDC bears this out...they now estimate that more than half-a-million African Americans in this country are living with HIV/AIDS–with a whopping 30,000 new infections occurring each year! Blacks make up only 13% of the population but are shouldering the greatest burden of infection. In 2006 Black men are diagnosed 7 times more than white men. Black women 19 times more their white counterparts. It goes without saying, unfortunately, HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of death–and the number one killer in Black women age 25-34.
How did we get to such a place? To such runaway numbers? Where is the public outcry? Should there be more funding for prevention and treatment programs? Are we so focused (and rightly so) on helping others that we are forgetting, neglecting those here at home?
Filed under: Black in America
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with