BLACK HISTORY MONTH – HIV still plagues Black Americans at alarming rates

As part of Black History Month, February 7th marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day dedicated to addressing the disproportionate impact of the HIV epidemic on Black Americans amidst this month of reflection and acknowledgment of Black heritage and achievements. 

In recent years, we’ve witnessed remarkable biomedical advances in HIV treatment and prevention, as well as in innovation in care delivery through telemedicine. However, despite these advancements, Black Americans and other non-white communities still experience higher rates of HIV and have less access to HIV testing and prevention medications compared to their white counterparts.


Transphobia hurts trans women’s health, new HIV research finds

Job discrimination and structural stressors were correlated with higher risk behavior when it came to HIV.

New technologies, such as injectables for HIV prevention and Generative AI, offer solutions on how to bridge disparities in HIV incidences and increase uptake in preventative measures. 

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We already have the tools we need to end the spread of HIV 

In 2021, the U.S. saw about 32,100 new HIV infections, marking a reduction of more than two-thirds since the peak of the epidemic in the 1980s and showcasing significant progress in combating HIV.

Preventive medications are 99% effective when taken as prescribed – options include a daily pill and long-acting injectables. HIV treatments can suppress the virus to undetectable levels, preventing HIV from sexual transmission when patients consistently follow their treatment plan.

The cost of HIV prevention medication and treatment has become more affordable due to the preventive care mandates in the Affordable Care Act, the safety net provided by the Ryan White Program for individuals living with HIV, and the availability of generic HIV prevention medication options. 

Many telehealth providers (NurxFOLX, and Q Care Plus) have made HIV treatment and prevention care more accessible by addressing common barriers such as transportation and time constraints. The largest telehealth provider for PrEP, MISTR, even collaborates with local non-profits to ensure patients incur no out-of-pocket expenses for services like lab tests.

Under the leadership of Harold Phillips, the former Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, the federal government released its “Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. by 2030″ initiative, which represents a concerted effort with funding to drastically reduce new HIV infections, with the goal of cutting new HIV cases by 75% by 2025 and 90% by 2030. 

The disproportionate impact of HIV on Black communities 

HIV Incidence: While Black Americans constitute 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 43% of new HIV diagnoses, 42% of people living with HIV, and 44% of HIV-related deaths. A Black MSM (man who has sex with men) has a 1 in 2 chance of acquiring HIV in their lifetime. 

Black Women: The disparity is particularly pronounced among Black women, who represent 72% of women living with HIV today.  One-fifth of new HIV infections in 2021 occurred in women, with over half of those new infections in Black women. 

Black and Trans: The situation among Black transgender populations is alarming. A CDC report from 2021 revealed that 40% of transgender women in major U.S. cities have HIV. The prevalence is even higher among African American/Black transgender women, with nearly two-thirds being HIV positive. 

Black Youth and HIV: In 2020, individuals aged 13 to 34 accounted for more than half of new HIV diagnoses. African American youth are particularly affected. Of the nearly 21,000 infections estimated to occur each year among African Americans, one-third are among young people aged 13 to 24. The rate of new infections among young Black males aged 13 to 24 is 11 times as high as that of young white males and four times as high as that of young Hispanic males. 

Access to HIV Prevention Care: The issue of HIV prevention also reflects significant racial disparities. While 94% of White individuals who could benefit from PrEP have been prescribed it, the figures are strikingly low for Black and Hispanic/Latino populations, at just 13% and 24%, respectively. 

These statistics highlight the critical need for comprehensive, targeted strategies that address both HIV prevention and treatment specifically tailored to meet the needs and challenges of Black communities, including Black women, Black youth, and Black transgender individuals​. 

Promising new technologies: generative AI

AI-driven chatbots can increase access to HIV-related information and support, particularly for those who may face barriers in traditional healthcare settings. 

AI has the potential to enhance the efficiency and equity of HIV care but also to play a pivotal role in providing personalized care, educating populations, reducing stigma, mitigating medical mistrust, and ensuring that comprehensive health information and linkage to care are readily accessible to all, irrespective of their background or circumstances. 

A new biannual shot to improve HIV prevention

Gilead Sciences is developing a groundbreaking 6-month injectable form of PrEP that is poised to revolutionize HIV prevention. This long-acting shot, administered only twice a year, could enhance adherence and convenience, significantly reducing barriers to consistent PrEP use. Adherence to daily PrEP medication for HIV prevention presents challenges, notably for individuals without an illness, to manage daily pill intake. Studies reveal that almost half of those prescribed PrEP discontinue it within a year. There’s optimism surrounding Gilead’s upcoming PrEP injection, expected in late 2025, which could significantly improve adherence by requiring attention only twice a year versus the current daily PrEP pills. 

In honoring Black History Month, let’s reaffirm our commitment to addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black communities, leveraging technological innovations, and working towards a future where HIV does not disproportionately impact any community.

For inspiration on where to start and how to get involved, these Black-led organizations focus on HIV in Black communities: SisterLove (the first women’s HIV, sexual, and reproductive justice organization in the Southeast, founded by longtime HIV advocate Dázon Dixon Diallo), the Black AIDS Institute (founded by Phill Wilson in 1999, a prominent Black HIV/AIDS activist), and the Southern AIDS Coalition

In addition,’s HIV Services Locator can help you find HIV services like testing, HIV care, PrEP, and much more. 

Ramin Bastani, Healthvana CEO

Gabriella Palmeri, Healthvana Head of Partnerships 

Healthvana is the leading technology company working to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. Since 2015, they’ve helped over 500,000 patients receive HIV/STI treatment/HIV prevention-related care. Healthvana’s customers include the largest national HIV care provider and the nation’s largest public health department.