HIV/AIDS Health Disparities: Race, Income Matter

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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In October, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), Division of Health, Wellness and Disease Control, Health Disparities Reduction and Minority Health Section (HDRMH) held its first statewide Health Disparities Conference. In doing so, MDCH moved closer to identifying solutions and prevention strategies to bridge the health gap in Michigan. HDRMH is working to develop effective programs, partnerships, and policies impact to health disparities.

"To provide the leadership in improving minority health and reducing health disparities through education, collaboration, mobilization and coordination statewide is imperative," said Jean Chabut, deputy director of the Public Health Administration, MDCH.

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Health disparities are defined as persistent differences in health indicators by race and ethnicity across multiple disease categories. These disparities are explained by examining the association between socioeconomic status and/or race and the ability to access quality education, housing, and other social and economic supports, known as social determinants. These social determinants are closely linked to discrimination and other stressors that increase exposure to unhealthy environments, increase risk for unhealthy behaviors, and negatively impact health status.

HIV/AIDS rates provide evidence of significant health disparities. For African Americans living in Michigan, the rate of HIV infection is 8.5 times higher than for whites. African Americans represent 14 percent of the population yet account for 57 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases. By contrast, whites represent 78 percent of the state's population and 37 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases. As of January 2008, 64 percent of all persons living with HIV were residents of the Metro Detroit area where African Americans make up the largest concentration in the state (23 percent).

The trend of HIV infection rates also rose steadily among 13- to 24-year old African American teenagers and young adults from 2002 to 2006. Data show that African Americans accounted for 76 percent of all new HIV diagnoses among teenagers and young adults for the five years previous. Furthermore, almost half (48 percent) of new diagnoses among teens and young adults are African-American men who have sex with men (MSM).

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I've been following the work of Dr. Henry H. Bauer for many months now. His research is best discribed as brilliant by many, i.e. College & Research Libraries News, "racial disparities in HIV test results that are difficult to explain by behavior". On his website hivskeptic.wordpress he's posted 33 articles pertaining to HIV and race, which is a must read.