This is Daniel Driffin, a 30-year-old Atlanta-based HIV/AIDS activist. He spoke at the DNC last week.  His three-minute speech spoke about the AIDS impact, and Hillary Clintons advocacy regarding the epidemic. Most importantly, he spoke about the current state of the epidemic, which disproportionately affects black and Latino gay and bisexual men. He deserved more attention, and spotlight for this issue.  Kudos Daniel-Great job.

“We know how to prevent the virus now, we know how to diagnose the virus now, we know how to treat it, and we know how to suppress it—we’ve learned all that within my lifetime,” said Driffin. “But still, there are many living with HIV...And who are most at risk? Young, gay, black men. Men like me. In fact, one in two gay black men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime if current rates continue. And if we have enough data, I’m sure black transgender women are more at risk, too. So, what do we do to fight HIV/AIDS today? We invest in research in education, we expand treatment and prevention, and we elect Hillary Clinton.”

Before moving on, I would like to define MSM (Men who have sex with men) as utilized in this post. The term was created in the 1990s by epidemiologists to study the spread of disease among men who have sex with men, regardless of identity. This allows sub-cultures without a recognised gay sexual orientation, or where such an orientation is considered shameful-men who identify as "straight" men, however have sex with men. (ex: down low)

Rich Juzwiak, over at Gawker wrote an important piece about how long research has been forecasting the current state of the HIV epidemic in the african american community, and how the media continues to ignore it

In 2001, the Washington Post quoted a survey of MSM in six cities that showed 32 percent of black MSM were already infected, alongside a projection: If 14 percent of 22-year-olds have HIV “a 14 percent annual incidence of infection, 70 percent of the group will have the infection by the time they are 29.”
In a 2009 AIDS and Behavior paper, a team at University of Pittsburg predicted that one in two black MSM would become infected based on the rates at that time.
In 2012, the founder/executive director of the Black AIDS Institute Phill Wilson shared with NPR a projection suggesting that 60 percent of black MSM would contract HIV in their lifetimes.
In 2013, the New York Times ran a story titled “Poor Black and Hispanic Men Are the Face of H.I.V.,” which quoted the following statistic: “Nationally, when only men under 25 infected through gay sex are counted, 80 percent are black or Hispanic.”
In 2014, amfAR shared the results of The Lancet HIV study that some of its researchers helped conduct, whose results underscored the “dire consequences from elevated HIV cases among black gay men in the U.S.”
In a 2015 , article in Georgia Health News pointed out Atlanta’s astronomical rates of HIV. Georgia Equality’s Emily Brown noted, “The reality is that in the black community, HIV is advancing to AIDS for many, and people are dying. No one is talking about it.”
Earlier this year, the first sentence of a CDC press release read: “If current HIV diagnoses rates persist, about 1 in 2 black men who have sex with men (MSM) and 1 in 4 Latino MSM in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime, according to a new analysis by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

In regards to these alarming numbers there needs to be some attention brought to this May 17, 2016 Associated Press article, which examines the staggeringly high rate of new H.I.V Diagnosis in the gay community just along the Southern states:

Three out of every 10 gay or bisexual men in several cities in the U.S. South have been diagnosed with the AIDS virus, three times the national rate, according to a study about how common HIV infections are in metro areas.

The study echoes other research that reported higher rates of HIV diagnoses in the South, in urban areas, and in gay and bisexual men, but it is the first to look at how common HIV diagnoses are in these men by city.The report found 21 of the 25 metro areas with the highest levels of HIV diagnosis in gay and bisexual men were in the South. 

An even closer look by Southern State numbers that show African Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.

  • In Alabama, African Americans were only 26% of Alabama’s population in 2011 but 69% of new HIV diagnoses. Moreover, African Americans are diagnosed at a rate that is 7x higher than whites.   (HIV Integrated Epidemiological Profile 2011)

  • In Florida, Blacks accounted for 49% of total HIV diagnosis and 60% of AIDS case deaths in 2011, even though Blacks made up approximately 15% of Florida’s population. (HIV Among Blacks Fact Sheet)

  • In Georgia, Blacks compromised 77% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in 2009.  From 2000-2009, Black males were frequently diagnosed at a rate that was 5x that of white males and 3x that of Hispanic males. From 2000-2009, Blacks had an HIV death rate that was over 3x that of other racial/ethnic groups. (Basic Epidemiological Profile of HIV/AIDS)

  • In Louisiana, 76% of new HIV diagnosis and 76% of new AIDS diagnosis were among African Americans in 2009. (Louisiana Public Health Institute)

  • In Mississippi, African American males are 9x more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than white males. (Mississippi State Department of Health)  In 2010, African Americans only compromised 37% of Mississippi’s population, but made up 78% of new HIV infections. (The Lancet)

  • In North Carolina, in 2011, African Americans represented 68% of all HIV diagnoses. (2011 HIV/STD Surveillance Report)

  • In South Carolina, the HIV case rate among African-Americans is approximately 10x greater than whites.  African Americans make up only 28% of South Carolina’s population but 76% of recent HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Almost 7,000 African-American men in SC are living with HIV. (Maudlin Patch)

  • In Tennessee, 57% of those diagnosed with HIV through the end of 2012, and 54% of HIV deaths, have been among African Americans even though African Americans only make up 17% of Tennessee’s population. In 2012, the HIV/AIDS case rate among African Americans was 9x that of whites. (WGNS Radio)

  • In Texas, Blacks make up less than 12% of the state’s population but account for 40% of new HIV diagnoses and 38% of all people living with HIV in TX.  In 2011, the HIV rate among Black men  in Texas was 5x that of White men and 3x that of Hispanic men.  (Texas DSHS)

  • Washington, D.C. had the highest diagnosis rate for Blacks in the US in 2010. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

PBS had an article in 2010 calling the south ground zero for the HIV/AIDS epidemic, not just for the gay community, but across gender and race:

A perfect storm of social and environmental conditions make the South ground zero for the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Southeast region of the U.S. has the most poverty, the weakest safety net programs, the most uninsured people, the most prisoners, the fewest needle exchange programs, and the least HIV/AIDS funding and abstinence-based sex education, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday.
HIV infections are crossing gender and race and spreading among minorities, young gay and bisexual men and heterosexual women. The disease is pooling in remote, rural areas with poor or nonexistent health and social infrastructure.

Notably, “research shows that African Americans do not engage in riskier behavior than members of other racial/ethnic groups.” (CDC) However, social and economic factors, such as poverty, racial discrimination, stigma, incarceration, and barriers to health care and housing, all contribute to the HIV epidemic in African American communities. (CDC)

The high rates of HIV among African American communities and these underlying social and economic determinants demonstrate that it is not only important to advocate for our communities for the end of HIV/AIDS today, but everyday. 

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