July 30th, 2008
11:05 AM ET

AIDS in the US

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
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.

Today, 47% of the HIV cases in the United States are in African Americans, even though African Americans make up only 13% of the population. If you peer deeper into certain cities, you find of all the HIV cases in Washington DC, 80 percent are among African Americans. In Jackson, Mississippi – 84%.

Add to all of this: In New York City, African Americans living with HIV are 2 and half times more likely to die as compared to HIV infected Caucasians. So, African Americans living in the United States are more likely to have HIV and more likely to die from it. Staggering.

And, here is another thing - AIDS rates in this nation's Latino community are increasing with little notice. Though Hispanics make up about 14 percent of the U.S. population, they represented 22 percent of new HIV and AIDS diagnoses tallied by federal officials in 2006.

No doubt, if you live in a resource rich country like Denmark or the United States, you have a better chance at living a longer life with HIV as compared to many other places around the world. But still, the stats you are reading this morning are worse in some ways than a few of the Sub Saharan countries we typically associate with the worst of the AIDS burden.

So, what to do? I think most would agree that global funding for AIDS needs to be a continued priority. Today the President will authorize 48 billion more dollars toward those efforts. But, how do you think we should better address the AIDS/HIV problems at home?

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.