African Americans represent the second largest ethnic minority in the United States and this community is increasingly vulnerable to a range of potential health concerns. Poor sanitary conditions and limited awareness of healthy lifestyle practices increase this population’s vulnerability to health problems. Statistical evidences suggest that the prevalence rate of HIV infection is unproportionately high in this population group, and hence federal organizations like CDC are actively working on this issue. This paper will explore the relationship between HIV infection and the African American population considering the social, cultural, and behavioral factors contributing to this association.
/> 2. Target Population
African Americans or Black Americans represent an ethical population group in the United States having an ancestral base in the Sub-Saharan Africa. The history of African Americans could be dated back to the 16th century, and currently this population group constitutes the second largest racial and ethnic minority in the US. According to the 2010 US Census (Profile America, Jan 4, 2012), African Americans make up only 13.6% of the total US population. When it comes to education landscape, the Blacks still lag behind Whites and Asian Americans. Statistical data indicate that they attend college at half the rate of Whites. The economic status of this ethnic group improved during the Civil Rights era, and over the 2002-2011 periods the African American minority achieved the largest growth rate in number of businesses owned. Heath status of this population is very poor as prevalence of a wide variety of diseases such as cancer, HIV, diabetes, BP, and obesity among African Americans is increasingly high. The Blacks have been intensely affected by the issue of color and racial discrimination since their origin, and this issue has significantly influenced their culture and behavioral traits. Despite a number of federal laws and social interventions suggested for eliminating racial discrimination in the US, it still seems to be potential social issue and the Blacks are the primary victims.
3. Health Issue
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a lentivirus that causes the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a life-threatening health condition in humans characterized with the progressive deterioration of the immune system, affecting the defensive mechanism of the human body. This disease was first observed in the United States in 1981. As Sharp and Hahn (2011) report, the initial cases of AIDS were reported in some injection drug users and gay men. In the early 1980s, it was misbelieved that AIDS was a gay community-specific disease. Researchers think that HIV was originated in non-human primates in West-central Africa and transferred to humans through a process called zoonosis (Sharp and Hahn). Despite a series of intense efforts taken to develop a potential medication/treatment for HIV infection, still there is no proven method for treating this fatal disease. It is good to see that the general public has deep understanding of this health concern and its incurable nature. Depending on the HIV subtype, an HIV infected person may survive up to 9 to 11 years in the absence of proper treatment. A number of reasons including transfer of blood, vaginal fluid, semen, or breast milk can be attributed to the occurrence of HIV infection. Mainly, unsafe sexual contact and inappropriate use of clinical devices and razor blades are the most common ways of developing AIDS.
4. Relationship between Health Issue and Target Population
Although Blacks represent only 13.6% of the total US population, 43% of HIV infected persons in the country are from the African American community (African Americans, n.d.). Hence, it is an undisputed fact that African Americans are the most affected victims of HIV and AIDS in the US. Sexual HIV transmission is a major route of HIV transmission among African Americans because most of them have sexual relations with people from the same ethnic group. This situation increases the percentage of the Blacks who are infected by HIV. In addition, ‘African American men who have sex with men (MSM)’ accounted for 72% of HIV infections in 2011 among male African Americans (Avert, n.d.). In the light of studies that state that MSM is a leading cause of HIV transmission, it is alarming to see that the MSM behavior is growing among young African Americans. The growing injection drug use trend among this community also contributes to the high incidence rate of HIV in this population group. To support, African American people who inject drugs (PWID) accounted for 9% of HIV transmissions among this community (Avert).
5. Current Strategies/Interventions
Currently there are several programs to prevent or reduce the HIV infections within the African American community. As described in Avert.com (n.d.), between the period 2009 and 2012, CDC funded state and local health institutions over $360 million for promoting HIV prevention initiatives stating that a significant percent of these funds will be spent on ethnic minorities such as African Americans. In addition, the CDC currently funds and operates a number of campaigns in the US that specifically attempt to address the epidemic in the African American community. Some of those campaign initiatives include Testing Makes Us Stronger and Let’s Stop HIV Together. “The CDC also runs a variety of social marketing and advertising campaigns, many of which target churches - the focal points of many African American communities” (Avert.com). Likewise, HIV testing uptake is used as a better method to reduce the diagnosis of AIDS among African Americans. It is observed that the poor cultural mixing between the Blacks and other ethnic communities, particularly Whites, appears to be a great challenge limiting the scope of intervention programs.
‘African Americans’. CMS Pulse. Retrieved from http://www.cmspulse.org/resource-center/minority-populations/africanAmericans.html
Avert. HIV & AIDS Among African Americans. Retrieved from http://www.avert.org/hiv-aids-among-african-americans.htm
Profile America. (Jan 4, 2012). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb12-ff01.html
Sharp, P. M., & Hahn, B. H. (2011). Origins of HIV and the AIDS Pandemic. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine:, 1(1), a006841. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a006841.
Williams, J. K & Wyatt, G. E & Wingood, G. (2010). The four Cs of HIV prevention with African Americans: crisis, condoms, culture, and community. Current HIV/AIDS Report, 7(4):185-93.