Poverty, AIDS and Blacks

New CDC analysis reveals strong link between race, being poor and HIV infection rates

Every nine-and-a-half minutes, a person in the United States becomes infected with HIV. There are more than one million people living with HIV and Black people account for nearly half of those infected.
A recently released study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added further data supporting warnings by Black HIV/AIDS awareness advocates that this is a “Black disease,” tied in part to economic disparity. High-poverty urban conditions increase one's chances of contracting HIV, according to the study.

“The study tells us that when other racial ethnic groups face the same social determinants of health as Blacks—the social and economic conditions within which they live and that impact their well being—their HIV rates rise to similar levels as those of Blacks, even for Whites,” says Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute.

“Our community is still in denial about the impact of AIDS on us. We have a whole new generation that needs to be educated on AIDS so we have to stop avoiding the dialogue,” HIV positive activist Rae Lewis-Thornton of Chicago told The Final Call.

In low income urban areas included in the study, those living below the poverty line were at greater risk for HIV than those living higher incomes. But the statistical landscape of Blacks contracting AIDS is only getting worse, according to national data posted on the CDC's Web site.

While Blacks represent approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 46 percent (506,000) of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States, as well as 45 percent (25,335) of the 56,300 new infections every year.

Approximately one in 16 Black men will be diagnosed with HIV, as will one in 30 Black women.

The rate of new HIV infections for Black men is about six times as high as that of White men, nearly three times that of Hispanic men, and more than twice that of Black women.

The HIV incidence rate for Black women is nearly 15 times as high as that of White women, and nearly four times that of Hispanic women.

Twenty-four years ago, Ms. Lewis-Thornton received the news that she was HIV positive and today lives with full blown AIDS.

“I was dying but I had to make a fundamental decision that I could live with this disease. I searched the type technology and medication that I needed. I also developed a support network spiritually and mentally because nobody should have to live with this disease alone. But we can't forget that this is a preventable disease so that is why I am on a crusade to educate the masses,” says Ms. Lewis-Thornton, 48.

The CDC's study, titled “Communities in Crisis: Is There a Generalized HIV Epidemic in Impoverished Urban Areas of the United States,” was unveiled July 19 at the biennial international AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria. The study was conducted from 2006-2007. Respondents included more than 9,000 adults (aged 18-50) in high-poverty areas of 23 cities such as New York, Houston, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles.

By race, 77 percent (7,014) of the participants in the study were Black, 15 percent (1,350) were Hispanic, 4 percent (402) were White and 3 percent (307) were other races. Over 4,600 of those survey earned less than $10,000 in annual household income.

According to the CDC, the study shows that poverty is the single most important demographic factor associated with HIV infection among inner city residents.

To read the full article log on: http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/Health_amp_Fitness_11/article_7172.shtml

Bonus Video Footage: Watch Ms. Lewis-Thornton discuss her AIDS experience in Parts 1 and 2 of "The Face of AIDS".

(This article I wrote appeared in The Final Call Newspaper Volume 29 Number 43. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook....or just put my name in your Google search engine and something might pop up! LOL...Brother Jesse Muhammad)



  1. this has affected me so, Brother Jesse. Mr. Lewis-Thornton is a very strong, vibrant, and honest woman. THIS is the kind of discussions we must have in our communities and IN the black churches!!! whatever your religion or beliefs are, those that do go to church, i do believe that most (not all) avoid this discussion because of lack of education. this woman speaks of the very faith that the black churches preach. and i'll be that most would not open their doors to her...

    it is a very touchy subject - one that most blacks do not want to discuss. but not discussing it doesn't make it less real nor does it make it go away. The rest of The Final Call article states this: "'The HIV rates in U.S. poverty areas rival the rates found in Haiti, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Angola,' says Mr. Wilson, whose Los Angeles-based group has mobilized to confront the epidemic the past 10 years." does this not register with anyone?

    how about the number of cases in MIDDLE and HIGH school? and these were cited by BLACK DOCTORS at a diversity conference i attended a couple of years ago. how these young women (and young men) will engage in risky sexual behaviors and how young girls will do other acts in order to keep their virginity. i will not get into specifics or get graphic here. but i wanted to make a point that this is a serious problem. in discussions with my daughter, through the rolling of the eyes and/or embarrassment, i CANNOT stress education and open dialogue.

    whether it began with us, HIV/AIDS has become an epidemic within the black community. it is a GLOBAL public health issue, but within our communities, it is not touched upon on a massive scale. we need to get real with ourselves on that.

    thank you for posting the video footage of Mr. Lewis-Thornton. it is a powerful message. i was immediately affected. it inspires me to look into more stories like hers and share them. we cannot avoid these discussions. as a single woman, i noticed that men will be mature enough to have sex talk - not just about having it, but about past relationships, etc. but when the discussions turn to HIV/AIDS, they immediately get uncomfortable. when that wall goes up, how does a single woman begin to even feel comfortable to ask her mate to get tested if he shuts her down when she's just talking AWARENESS?

    so thank you for posting this, Brother Jesse. i know i will be emailing and sharing this post. it is one worth discussing...i hope you get others to chime in...dialogue is part of healing...


  2. Thank you very much for sharing this! I become very emotional when confronted with the suffering of black men and women. This CAN be prevented, but we MUST speak out!! I pray that somehow this brave soul remains with us as long as God allows.. Ms. Rae Lewis Thornton, thank you for coming forward, crying aloud and sparing not! My prayers are with you and your family.


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