Evaluating HIV Testing Rates on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day


February 7th is commemorated each year to highlight the impact that HIV and AIDS has on the black or African American population in the United States.

Today, February 7, 2020, is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This day is commemorated each year to highlight the impact that HIV and AIDS has on the black or African American population in the United States.

According to statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, 13% of the US population was black, but 43% of all newly diagnosed HIV infections occurred in black individuals.

In a new article published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report authors detail findings on HIV testing outcomes among black individuals in the United States.

Ending the HIV epidemic is a US initiative with the goal of reducing new HIV infections by 90% from 2020 to 2030. The first phase of the initiative is focused upon reducing incidence in 50 jurisdictions which accounted for >50% of new diagnoses during 2016-17 and 7 states with disproportionate HIV prevalence in rural areas.

Specifically, the investigators used data from the CDC’s 2017 National HIV Prevention Program Monitoring and Evaluation program to look at testing outcomes in black individuals living in jurisdictions deemed high prevalence by the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative.

“Factors such as stigma, comorbidities, and socioeconomic inequalities might increase blacks’ risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV and limit access to quality health care, housing and HIV prevention messaging,” the authors wrote.

As a result, delayed access to HIV prevention and treatment can lead to work HIV care outcomes including delays in linkage to care and viral suppression. In total, 1,954,741 CDC-funded HIV tests were conducted in phase-1 jurisdictions. Of the total tests, black individuals accounted for 43.2% of the tests, twice that of whites (21.6%) or Hispanics/Latinos (22.4%). Additionally, 49.1% (4007) of new HIV diagnoses occurred in black individuals.

Among individuals who received a new diagnosis, 79.2% were linked to care within 90 days, 71.4% were interviewed for partner services, and 81.8% were referred to HIV prevention services.

Although 79.2% of blacks with newly diagnosed HIV infection were linked to HIV medical care within 90 days, the percentage is below the 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) goal of 85%. Based on this, it may be difficult to achieve the 2020 NHAS goal of 85% linkage to care within 30 days of diagnosis and the initiative to reduce new HIV infections by 90% by 2030.

The investigators also note that by sub-population, the highest percentages of HIV tests conducted in the Ending the HIV Epidemic jurisdictions were among men who have sex with men (27.4%), a population that had the highest rates of HIV-positive results among the black subpopulation (3.3%).

More than 70% of MSM with newly diagnosed infections were linked to HIV medical care (80.6%), interviewed for partner services (71.3%), or referred to HIV prevention services (84.2%).

“To achieve the goals of [Ending the HIV Epidemic] HIV prevention programs should focus on locally tailored evidence-based testing strategies to enhance and overcome barriers for linkage to and retention in care and reduce onward HIV transmission and HIV-related disparities,” authors of the report wrote.

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