HIV/AIDS Cases Up Most for People of Color

A giant AIDS ribbon
December 1 is World AIDS Day. Photo: Gernhaex/Flickr

Timed to today’s observance of World AIDS Day, California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development released a brief [PDF] looking at over 20 years of hospitalization trends for people with HIV and AIDS.

The state’s analysis showed that the number of people living with HIV and AIDS is up most significantly among blacks and Hispanics. Between 1988 and 2008, the number of white people with HIV/AIDS had nearly doubled, but the number of cases for blacks had more than tripled and were up more than five times for Hispanics.

Native Americans and Asian/Pacific Islanders with HIV/AIDS were also up dramatically, although these groups represent a small percentage of the total number of Californians living with HIV/AIDS.

The State’s analysis looked in detail at hospitalization rates for people with HIV/AIDS and found they have dropped dramatically, largely due to the introduction of antiretroviral therapy in 1997. Other findings include:

  • Cases in women are up significantly, more than sixfold since 1988. While HIV/AIDS overwhelmingly affects men, today women make up about 10 percent of total cases.
  • The patient population is older. 70 percent of people with HIV/AIDS are between ages 40-64, a big change since 1988, when the majority of cases were in people ages 20-39. Patients today are developing the illnesses associated with aging that are seen in the general population.
  • Hospitalization for mental and alcohol/drug-related issues more than doubled.

Public health officials encourage people to get tested for HIV. “One important way we can prevent the spread of HIV is to ensure that everyone knows their HIV status,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, Director of the California Department of Public Health in a statement.

Nationally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says 20 percent of people with HIV don’t know they are infected. Without effective HIV treatment, patients are at greater risk of developing AIDS. “HIV medications not only help HIV infected persons live longer, healthier lives, but also decrease the chance that they will transmit HIV,” Dr. Chapman added.

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