HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. HIV can damage a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight diseases.
Racial and ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. As a result, the majority of new AIDS diagnoses, new HIV infections, people living with HIV/AIDS, and AIDS deaths are racial and ethnic minorities (CDC, 2012; Hall et al., 2008).
Blacks have the highest rate of new HIV infections and new AIDS diagnoses of any racial/ethnic group (CDC, 2012). The AIDS diagnosis rate per 100,000 for blacks in 2009 was more than 9 times that of whites (CDC, 2011a). The HIV rate was 7.9 times greater among blacks than whites in 2010 (CDC, 2012). Black women also accounted for the largest share of new HIV infections among women in 2006 (61%), (CDC, 2008). New HIV infection rates for black women are more than 15 times as high as the rate for non-Latina white women, and more than 3 times as high as the rates for Latinas. New HIV infection rates for black men are more than 6.5 times as high as the rates for non-Latino white men and 2.5 times as high as the rates for Latino men.
HIV/AIDS rates for Latinos are 3.5 times as high as the rates for non-Latino whites. The rate of new HIV infections for Hispanics/Latinos is 3 times that of whites and HIV is the fourth leading cause of death for Hispanics ages 35-44 years (CDC, 2011; 2012). For Hispanic women, the rates of HIV infection are approximately 4 times greater than white women (CDC, 2010).
Men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be at high risk for HIV infection despite a decline in infection rates since the early years of the epidemic. MSM accounted for an estimated 53% of new HIV infections in 2006, and are the only group for which new infections are on the rise (CDC, 2008; CDC, 2012; Hall et al., 2008). Younger MSM and those of color are at particularly high risk. In 2010, the greatest number of new HIV infections (4,800) among MSM occurred in young black/African American MSM aged 13–24 (CDC, 2012). In 2006, Hispanic MSM represented 72% of new infections among all Hispanic men, and nearly 19% among all MSM (CDC, 2010).
What are we doing at El Centro to help prevent and treat HIV/AIDS?
The El Centro Research Core has sponsored pilot studies and randomized clinical trials as well as supported associated health disparities research studies within the School of Nursing and Health Studies that aim to have an impact on HIV risk in diverse populations and cultures.
Currently, El Centro is sponsoring a study testing the effectiveness of SEPA (an intervention for Latina women) that has HIV risk reduction as one of its aims.