Objectives: To review data on the extent of HIV infection and associated risk behaviors, the occurrence of AIDS, and HIV-related mortality in African Americans and to suggest what can be done to reduce HIV exposure and infection in this population.
Design/methods: Review of epidemiologic, published, multisite data on HIV infection in, and related behaviors of, African Americans.
Results: On every epidemiologic measure in common use, African Americans, compared with the four other federally recognized racial/ethnic groups, have the most severe epidemic. The trend data show continuing growth in the African American epidemic despite the availability of effective behavioral interventions and biomedical treatments. Few published intervention studies with African American populations have been adequately evaluated; nor have they focused proportionately on men who have sex with men, a group in the African American community with continuing high rates of infection.
Conclusions: Rates of HIV transmission and disease among African Americans are high, disproportionate, and are not declining as significantly in response to effective interventions as they are among whites. Attention is urgently needed to increase our understanding of risk behaviors, social networks, and specific factors in the African American community that can be altered to reduce HIV infection. Macroenvironmental factors--poverty, social class, racism--need to be studied to suggest possible intervention components to reduce rates of HIV transmission and to increase the use of therapies that are more effectively slowing disease progression and lowering death rates among whites.