World AIDS Day 2008

Addressing the U.S. Epidemic

A by the numbers look at HIV/AIDS in the United States and around the world and guidelines for addressing the U.S. epidemic.

A large AIDS ribbon hangs from the North Portico of the White House in honor of World AIDS Day last year. (AP/Ron Edmonds)
A large AIDS ribbon hangs from the North Portico of the White House in honor of World AIDS Day last year. (AP/Ron Edmonds)

On this World AIDS Day, as 33 million people worldwide live with HIV, we pause to recognize the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS crisis in our own country and to call for action commensurate with this domestic crisis.

AIDS is the number one killer for black women between the ages of 25 and 34.

Black women are now almost 15 times as likely to be infected with HIV and 23 times more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS as white women.

The HIV rate in Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, is 1 in 20—the same as the overall rate in sub-Saharan Africa.

A total of 56,300 people in the United States were newly infected with HIV in 2006, a number 40 percent higher than previously estimated.

Fifty-three percent of new HIV infections in 2006 occurred in gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities.

African Americans, who make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population, now make up more than 45 percent of new infections.

If African Americans in the United States constituted their own country, that country would rank 16 in the world among those with the highest number of individuals living with HIV.

The number of African Americans infected with HIV now exceeds the number of HIV-positive people in 7 of the 15 countries targeted by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.

The United States has increased its PEPFAR commitment for international HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment by $48 billion over the next five years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would need $4.8 billion over the next five years to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections in the United States.

Only 4 percent of the current share of HIV/AIDS domestic funding is devoted to prevention programs.

As a new administration prepares to move to Washington, we urge them to be more than simply aware of the numbers. We want them to move quickly to address the U.S. epidemic. It is time to develop a National AIDS Strategy that includes:

1. Early and ongoing care to people with HIV by passing the Early Treatment for HIV/AIDS Act and reauthorizing the Ryan White Care Act.

2. Programs based on solid, evidence-based public health principles, including removing the ban on funding for syringe exchange and discontinuing funding for abstinence-only education.

3. Participation and leadership on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from the most vulnerable communities by including people of color, women, and gay men who are living with HIV/AIDS.

4. More funding to the Minority AIDS Initiative to address the disproportionate effect that HIV/AIDS has had on communities of color.

5. An end to the unnecessary discrimination that prohibits people with HIV from entering the United States as either visitors or immigrants.

We must continue the admirable work to fight HIV/AIDS around the world, but we must also seriously address the root causes of our own AIDS epidemic that allow the epidemic and the stigma attached to it—poverty, discrimination, violence, homophobia, and stark racial and gender inequities—to persist and grow here at home.

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