Op-Ed: CDC Highlights Factors That Contribute to Continuing HIV Disparities in the U.S.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) — (file photo)

According to data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), despite overall progress in reducing HIV transmission in the United States, HIV continues to affect some groups more than others due to longstanding and ingrained barriers. Black or African American (hereafter referred to as Black) people account for a higher proportion of new HIV infections, compared to other races and ethnicities. Black people account for 13% of the U.S. population but 40% of people with HIV in 2019, according to CDC estimates.

HIV disparities can and must end. Racism, longstanding systemic inequities, social and economic marginalization, residential segregation, unequal reach of HIV prevention and treatment, and higher levels of HIV in some communities are among the factors that have contributed to these troubling and persistent disparities.

A CDC report published today, ahead of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7, finds 52% of Black adults with diagnosed HIV resided in areas in the country with higher Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) scores — often residentially segregated communities comprised predominately of Black people. The report underscores the continuing, urgent need to address the social determinants that contribute to disparities and better deliver HIV prevention and care to people who need it most.

A separate report by New York State health officials and CDC found in the state of New York that COVID-19 vaccination coverage was lower among adults with HIV than the general adult population and that Black people with HIV were among groups with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination coverage. People engaged in HIV care were more likely to be vaccinated than people not engaged in HIV care. The report emphasizes the need for interventions to help people with HIV get into and stay in HIV care, get vaccinated, and stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines according to CDC guidelines.

To achieve health equity and end the HIV epidemic, the nation must overcome barriers that, for far too long, have stood between some people and highly effective HIV prevention and treatment tools. CDC is working with partners on many fronts and through the federal ‘Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S.’ initiative to focus resources to communities that could most benefit from key, science-based HIV treatment and prevention strategies that are scaled up in innovative ways to reach populations equitably.

Please attribute the following quote to Demetre Daskalakis, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s HIV Prevention Program

“Despite tremendous progress in reducing HIV transmission since the height of the epidemic, HIV continues to disproportionately affect Black people in America. Health disparities are not inevitable and can be addressed. The advanced, highly effective HIV prevention and treatment tools and COVID-19 vaccines that have been accessed by some must be accessible to all. While there is no simple solution to equity, our nation must finally tear down the wall of factors — systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, HIV-related stigma and other ingrained barriers — that still obstruct these tools against HIV and COVID-19 from equitably reaching the people who could benefit from them.”  —Demetre Daskalakis, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s HIV Prevention Program

Additional Resources

CDC’s Racism and Health Website


(this link will be available after 1pm ET) CDC Media Fact Sheet: HIV and Black/African American People in the U.S.


CDC Media Fact Sheet: The State of the HIV Epidemic in the U.S.


CDC Media Fact Sheet: HIV in the U.S. by the Numbers


CDC’s Role in the Federal “Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S.” initiative


Editor’s note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the national public health agency of the United States. It is a United States federal agency, under the Department of Health and Human Services, and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.