AIDS Disproportionately Affecting Minorities, Particularly Black and Hispanic Women, in New York City, Report Says
New York City's AIDS epidemic has "evolved from a disease of gay white men to an epidemic primarily affecting poor black and Hispanic women," according to a report released yesterday by the United Way of New York City, Newsday reports. An estimated 48,145 city residents have AIDS, 76% of whom are minorities, with black and Latina women representing 87% of women with AIDS, according to data from the city health department. Women currently account for 27% of all AIDS cases in the city, but the report estimates that by the end of the decade, black and Latina women of childbearing age will make up 50% of the city's cases.
The Neighborhood Picture
The report, titled "HIV/AIDS in New York City: A Strategy for Improving Odds, Options and Quality of Life," examined the AIDS epidemic in several neighborhoods around the city and found that in some low-income areas populated primarily by minorities, AIDS is now a "condition touching almost every resident of the community," either directly or indirectly. Bedford-Stuyvesant had the highest number of AIDS cases, with 7,399, while the neighborhoods of Harlem, East Harlem and Hunts Point had 13,469 combined cases. "We tend to forget there is still no cure for AIDS. And so we are faced with an epidemic of color," Debra Fraser-Howze, founder of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, said, adding that some communities are "beginning to look like some places in Africa." Largely gay neighborhoods like Chelsea also had high numbers of AIDS cases, the report found (Ramirez, Newsday, 8/15).
Causes and Possible Actions
Dennis de Leon, executive director of the Latino Commission on AIDS, said that HIV has moved into the city's minority communities because of "poverty and issues related to it," such as injection drug use, homelessness and incarceration (United Way of New York City release, 8/14). He added that a lack of adequate funding has exacerbated the spread of HIV in poor communities of color. "It's no coincidence that the abandonment of funding occurred as the face of AIDS changed," he said, noting that the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program is facing a $15 million shortfall this year (Newsday, 8/15). In addition to increased HIV/AIDS funding, the report outlines four areas in which further investment could reduce the number of new cases:
- Support and counseling services for children and families of mothers or caregivers with HIV should be improved;
- HIV/AIDS education and prevention strategies should be expanded and strengthened to help young people better "handle situations that put them at risk of infection";
- Further action should be taken to raise awareness among people at "high risk" of transmitting HIV about how their behaviors impact themselves and others; and
- Further investment is needed in the "infrastructures of community-based organizations serving people with HIV/AIDS" to help these groups with issues such as fundraising, planning and reporting and accountability capacities (United Way of New York City release, 8/14).