Minorities Make Up Large Proportion of HIV/AIDS Cases in Massachusetts, Report Shows
A new report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health HIV/AIDS Bureau shows "grossly disproportionate" cases of HIV/AIDS among blacks and Hispanics, the Boston Globe reports. According to the report, "An Added Burden: The Impact of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic on Communities of Color in Massachusetts," blacks and Hispanics represented more than half the people in the state living with HIV/AIDS in 2005. Further, 83% of women with HIV/AIDS were black or Hispanic. Blacks and Hispanics each make up 6% of the state's population, according to the Globe.
The report, released on World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, marks the first time the public health department issued a report specifically on racial disparities associated with HIV/AIDS, the Globe reports.
The report recommended:
- Expanding investment in HIV/AIDS programs aimed at minorities;
- Creating HIV education and prevention materials that are culturally appropriate; and
- Expanding access to needle-exchange programs in minority neighborhoods.
Injection drug use is a significant factor in HIV transmission among minorities, who also are "dramatically underrepresented" in the state's HIV testing services and needle-exchange programs, the Globe reports.
Another factor behind higher HIV/AIDS rates among minorities is the high incarceration rate among black men, according to Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, who presented the report at a World AIDS Day event. Bigby said that men who have sex with other men in prison might later transmit HIV to their female partners.
Rebecca Haag, executive director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, said a lack of information among minorities about HIV/AIDS prevention also contributes to the situation. She added, "I think we're doing a pretty good job in Massachusetts overall, but there are pockets of communities where we need more funding for prevention."
She also said that recommendations for routine HIV testing from CDC will not be successful without targeting approaches toward minority communities. She added, "Routine testing without routine health care doesn't do us a lot of good. We need to get the Urban League involved. ... There is still a lot of stigma related to this disease" (Woolhouse, Boston Globe, 12/2).
The report is available online (.pdf). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.