July 30th, 2008
12:38 PM ET

Looking at AIDS in the US

Watch: A new report says blacks are eight times more likely than whites to be HIV infected. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.
Watch: A new report says blacks are eight times more likely than whites to be HIV infected. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta | Bio
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

I have logged hundreds of thousands of miles, looking at the burden of AIDS around the world. I have been with the Partners in Health teams in Rwanda and the Clinton Foundation in Kenya. I have seen the work being done in Haiti, to name a few. Today, I would like to draw some comparison with what is happening right here at home.

Yesterday the Black AIDS Institute reported that if African-Americans with HIV/AIDS were their own country, they would make up more HIV/AIDS cases than seven of the countries currently receiving emergency funding for… AIDS. Think about that. There are almost 600,000 African-Americans living with HIV, and there are still 30,000 newly infected cases every year. As things stand now, AIDS remains the leading cause of death among African-American women between the ages of 25 and 34, and the second-leading cause of death among African-American men between 35 and 44 years of age.

As Jesse Milan, board chair of the institute, said, “When the world wasn’t looking, the AIDS epidemic refused to go away.” AIDS has always been a disparate African-American problem. Even at the beginning of this epidemic in the United States, when there were only a few thousand cases, more than a quarter of them were among African-Americans.


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • Dr. Sanjay Gupta
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Nicole

    I think a great beginning in expanding our minds would be to take a sociology class. The high rate of HIV/AIDS in the black community cannot just be chalked up to "making bad decisions." We've all made bad decisions before, nobody is perfect. Have you EVER had unprotected sex? You are at risk too (even if you’re married, straight, and White). Also, I live in Minnesota where many Black men date White women....why aren't the White women's HIV/AIDS statistics skyrocketing? After all, ALL women are more susceptible to the disease than men, not just Black women.

    There are definite socioeconomic factors that come into play such as health care, education, income status, and lack of many resources that are available in middle-class suburbia.....not to mention that being Black in America is not something a White can possibly understand. People of darker skin are absolutely treated differently than their pale skinned counterparts. I've seen it in action but I'll never really understand the pain or the frustration that this type of discrimination causes.

    On a related note, CNN did a disservice to the Black community in the documentary "Black in America." They scratched the surface of profound issues; however, there was an absolute lack of information to back up these issues that were so vaguely touched upon. Okay, we heard the staggeringly high statistics about Blacks with HIV/AIDS, but why didn't CNN dig deeper to find the root of the problem. Why wasn’t the plight of the Black man further discussed…the inequalities of our justice system and the lack of opportunities afforded to many Blacks. I don’t care what anyone says…racism is real, it does exist even though it is 2008, and the effects of this underlying racism are still in full swing. This documentary was an opportunity to EDUCATE people and CNN missed the mark.

    July 31, 2008 at 1:21 am |
  2. kay, Huntsville, AL

    I have mixed feelings about the subject. I want people to have help that need it like children and people that got the disease accidentally like from blood products, etc. I want to know how many cases in the United States are linked to drug use. There is a very bad drug problem and it is growing.

    July 30, 2008 at 10:56 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    It doesn't matter how people get AIDS; we need to find a cure. When people used to get typhoid by drinking tainted water (back in the 1800s) we found a way to treat it and a way to prevent it – we didn't blame the victims for having it because they drank some water.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 30, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  4. Linda, Los Angeles

    What I would love to know that has not been addressed is what is the statistics of African Americans that were in a monogamous relationship or married. I have been reading the comments since the statics came out and the negative comments automatically assume that these people were promiscuous.

    Cindy, what about the married mother who has now found out she is infected. Are we telling them that the fault is theirs alone? When you look into that subcategory, it is the one that is growing the fastest. I think that statistics needs to be examined more deeply if we are to do something about this epidemic.

    July 30, 2008 at 8:46 pm |
  5. lampe

    The government is in the shape that it's in now, why? because everytime people can't or won't act responsible what's the first thing they want The Government to bail them out. If you make decisions that are not the right ones to make, who should have to pay? You or The Taxpayers?

    July 30, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  6. Donnie

    Every since Black in America and this Aids thing aired on cnn, I get these looks from other races like I have the aids or I am a thug .It's hurts on the inside, but I keep my head up and will not let that determine my future. I don't no what impact these shows will have on us getting a job,but you can bet your bottom dollar it will have some. Kids of all races do not listen to their Fathers and Mothers because they no they can get away with it, and if we woop there behind we will go to jail. So now they no more about sex then we do , and Drugs. It takes a village to raise a child and it's going to take a village to weep out aids and drugs. Just because you live in New york dose not mean you are not part of my village in Chicago.
    I am glad the this is getting out thou and hopefully people will make a change for the better for all of us.(all races) Maybe when some one was looking at me I was feeling ashame that I did'nt more.
    If every one was mandated to get tested I wonder what that figure would be then--B 25%-W 25%–S 25%-A 25% Dr. Cupta

    July 30, 2008 at 8:06 pm |
  7. Mari, Salt Lake City

    It is a tragedy that in the world's most wealthy nation AIDs is rampant. Where is the compassion? Some of the comments here are a bit nasty. Sure people should know better and do better, but many are afraid. The drug problem in our nation is part of the component.

    In the last few years, I have not seen many public service ads about AIDS. We need to be aggressive in educating people.

    Of course, during the Bush/Cheney years, the money for sex education dried up. So the poor intercity schools were not getting the funds needed to teach and warn about AIDS to kids who can barely read.

    God help us!

    July 30, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  8. EJ (USA)

    There are children who contract AIDS as well (through their parents as well as through their sexual behavior) and its just SICK to see the callousness of so many people. Nobody is perfect. Everyone (children and adults) makes mistakes.

    No wonder so many people around the world hate America (or more specifically, the disgustingly arrogant & condescending attitude of so many Americans.)

    July 30, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  9. EJ (USA)

    yeah, and I bet most of you claim to be "Christian"............

    July 30, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  10. Martina Ilstad

    Hey Dr.Cupta
    i think you did, and you do a good job,make poele not forget this big healthproblem for all of the wold,when will the wold stop to belive its not still a gay plague?there are thousands of poeple in africa where hiv is a verry big problem,most of the poeple are women.they need medicin .
    but this all needs money,to help them to live a longer live,stay with their kids.hiv and aids donot ask their skin color.its our doughtiento help

    July 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  11. Cynthia

    Dr. Gupta, the reality of it is that in this day and time no one who has sex knows for sure that they are not at risk. A number of factors place us all at risk: there is promiscuity, extramartial affairs, down low men (men that sleep with other men – some that married or in relationships with women), drug users, and people returning home from prison.

    July 30, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  12. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    This falls into the same category as the other disasterous personal choices in the black community: 50% drop out rate, 70% illegitimatacy rate, 33% black male incarceration rate. This is a self induced problem. AIDS is 100% preventable. Personal responsibility is the answer, not more government programs. My sympathy meter is pegged at zero on this one.

    July 30, 2008 at 5:05 pm |
  13. Jim S,

    Dr. Gupta-
    AIDS is a Disease that KILLS those infected Right? It is a Disease that is Transmitable Right?
    1. We Know its out there.
    2.We Know how it is transmitted.
    3.We know how to stop this disease from spreading.
    4.Your own report tells us it is a EPIDEMIC
    So My Question to YOU DR.Gupta – WHY DOES THE MEDICAL PROFESSION Not Test & Quarentine these people so they cannot infect anyone else????? Could it possibly be $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    July 30, 2008 at 4:25 pm |
  14. Richard


    While I am all for taking self-responsibility for one's own actions, to say that "AIDS is so prevalent in the black community because they don’t use protection and sleep with many partners." is wrong. People of all races sleep with many partners and do so without protection. As a black man, I agree that some african-americans show lack of responsibility, but the so do people of all races. Instead of bashing those with AIDS we should extend are hand and help.

    July 30, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  15. seah ohio

    The American Public Has been Educated On Aids. In the schools, the media, the streets every where you look it is out there and available for years.

    They know how it is transmitted for years now.

    So Unprotected sex, Drug use If you do them you die.

    No ones fault but the person making the choices to do it.

    No one can protect you from yourself.

    Prevention is the key...................................

    The worse thing is once someone gets it, they expect and demand the government to take care of them.

    They should of though about the repercussions and consequences before they went out and got themselves infected with it.

    Yes they did give it to themselves, by not preventing from getting it.

    There is no excuse................. Unless you are retarded and can not read or hear or comprehend.

    July 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm |
  16. EJ (USA)

    Tammy – thanks for a very intelligent post on the subject.

    July 30, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  17. Larry

    Is there a 'patient 0' for aids and can we use that as a start for viewing the geographic spread of aids here in america?

    July 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm |
  18. Tammy

    New AIDS cases where a majority are African Americans comprises only 43% of the nation in terms of states affected (DC included). What is scary is some of the states are the same ones I've seen in the top lists for 17 years. Look at states where numbers have dropped. What happened? What was changed? What can states do to make those changes in their own programs and services? What can communities do to make those changes? The other interesting thing of note is that many of the states are in the Deep South where HIV is still seen as the gay plague, it's a stereotype that won't die thanks to the Bible thumpers, and I think attitudes and education are key through churches in those states and communities. Until people see HIV as anyone's disease, this thing will continue to grow. Spend resources federally to sustain what is working. More importantly, spend it to create programs that will work in areas where they currently don't have anything. And also, continue to fund social services, healthcare that is sufficient for all, and medication programs (this includes research and making meds affordable for everyone). We know the meds work for many if taken appropriately. We know diet, exercise, and healthy habits (no drinking, smoking, drug abuse, risky sex) increase chances of survival. We need to help empower people to make those changes so they can live longer lives. But then, it's up to them. And no amount of money on the planet can make a person take meds, do what's right for his or her body, and engage in behaviors that promote longer lives with HIV. However, wise use of what is available can make that opportunity available for everyone with HIV and AIDS (no matter what their skin color).

    July 30, 2008 at 1:50 pm |
  19. Larry

    Dr. Gupta, are those actual head counts or statistical extrapolations?

    July 30, 2008 at 1:06 pm |
  20. GF, Los Angeles

    We must all be held accountable for our own actions and accept any consequences that come with making those choices whether it be pregnancy or an STD. We all know the risks and should accept them when we make the choice to sleep with someone or not. I don't think pouring more money into this is the answer. Another blackhole for our taxpayer dollars to go into. How about parents teaching some morals to their children?

    July 30, 2008 at 1:03 pm |
  21. Cindy

    I hear what you are saying but I still think that it is of their own doing. You can't even compare blacks here with ones in Africa or any third world country. That is like comparing apples to oranges...you just can't do it.

    People here know about AIDS it is on every TV, on ads in magazines, it is all over the place. People in these third world countries are not as knowledgeable about it.

    There are preventions very readily accessible here and they are not in these other countries. So if they aren't using them here it is there own fault.

    People need to start taking responsibility of their own lives and stop trying to blame others. AIDS is so prevalent in the black community because they don't use protection and sleep with many partners. If they stopped doing that then the growth rate of AIDS would diminish. It's all a personal choice.


    July 30, 2008 at 12:55 pm |
  22. Jim

    Anyone who engages in unprotected sexual relationships, regardless of race, does not have my sympathy here.

    July 30, 2008 at 12:51 pm |