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Recently, a web page of National Public Radio stated “AIDS is the primary killer of African-Americans ages 19 to 44 years of age.”   This misconception is evidently a common one. For example, Peter Piot, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, had broadcast the same belief previously, i.e., “AIDS remains the leading cause of death in African-American women in the USA.” [1]  Neither statement is accurate.

It is no secret that the African-Americans, as a group, embody a number of medical and societal ills in a prevalence disproportionate compared with the remainder of the U.S. population . . . HIV/AIDS among them.  Nevertheless, HIV/AIDS is not the principal killer of black Americans of any age group, male or female.  The tables below attest to this fact.

For the year 2008, Table 1 presents:

  • The Rank of HIV/AIDS among the Top Ten Killers by age group
  • The #1 Cause of Death by age group

Read this table left-to-right.  For example, in the 15 – 19 years age bracket, HIV/AIDS was ranked 8th among the top ten killers.  Twenty-two (22) people died of HIV/AIDS.  These 22 people represented 0.8% of all deaths among the 15 – 19 years age bracket.

 

Table 1:  AIDS Deaths among All African-Americansin the United States (2008) Both Sexes

 

Rank of HIV/AIDS

#1 Cause of Death

Age Range

Rank

Deaths

% Total

Cause

Deaths

% Total

15 – 19 years

8

22

0.8%

Homicide

1231

43.1%

20 – 24 years

6

93

2.1%

Homicide

1802

41.3%

25 – 34 years

4

613

6.6%

Homicide

2471

26.7%

35 – 44 years

4

1564

9.9%

Heart Disease

2894

18.3%

45 – 54 years

4

2048

5.7%

Cancer

8745

24.3%

Source:  Deaths: Leading Causes for 2008 [2]

 

For the year 2008, Table 2 presents the same data but for African-American females only.  Table 2 discounts Piot’s statement that “AIDS remains the leading cause of death in African-American women in the USA.”  For the year 2008, Table 2 clearly shows that HIV/AIDS is not the leading cause of death among African-American woman.

 

Table 2:  HIV/AIDS Deaths among African-American Females in the United States (2008)

 

HIV/AIDS

#1 Cause of Death

Age Range

Rank

Deaths

% Total

Cause

Deaths

% Total

15 – 19 years

9

15

2.2%

Accidents

171

25.1%

20 – 24 years

6

40

3.9%

Accidents

218

21.3%

25 – 34 years

4

273

9.4%

Heart Disease

414

14.3%

35 – 44 years

3

620

9.4%

Cancer

1440

21.9%

45 – 54 years

5

648

4.2%

Cancer

4418

28.9%

Source:  Deaths: Leading Causes for 2008 [2]

 

The high prevalence of HIV infection in the black community is largely due to IV drug use.  (Therefore, as a short-term partial solution, the issue of making clean hypodermic needles available is a vital issue.)  Historically, a large proportion of the black (and Latino) females with HIV/AIDS were the sexual partners of male black (and Latino) IV drug users.  Overall, heterosexual HIV transmission dwells in the realm of long-term sexual partnerships:  not in the world of one-night stands (although it can and probably has happened).

The story of blood-borne diseases, such as HIV infection and Hepatitis B virus infection, is written in the ills of society.  These two blood-borne diseases share the same transmission vectors and the same high-risk groups.  The Hepatitis B epidemic of the 1970s was a model for the HIV/AIDS epidemic that emerged in the 1980s.

To repeat, the story of blood-borne diseases – as with many other conditions consequent to adverse health behaviors — is written in the fabric of society.  The answer to HIV/AIDS does not lay in money, science, more effective drugs, or a vaccine.  Behind Hepatitis B and HIV lay some other blood-borne agent waiting to emerge.  To end the era of blood-borne diseases in the Western world, the mandate is the creation of a society enabling the formation of familial, educational, and societal structures (including economic justice!) that grant emotional inoculation against the incidence and consequence of hate, insecurity, despair, and abuse.

The way lies forward.

 

References

[1]  Piot, P., Kazatchkine, M., Dybul, M., and Lob-Levyt, J. (2009) Aids: Lessons Learnt and Myths Dispelled. Lancet 374: 260-263 [PMID:  19303630]

[2] Deaths: Leading Causes for 2008 (National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 60, No. 6, June 6, 2012) by Melonie Heron, Ph.D., Division of Vital Statistics [FREE Full Text]

 

 

 

 

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