The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is an epidemic which first began in the 1930s around the region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Officially speaking, the disease is a genetic mutation of the chimpanzee’s similarly organized simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). The term was relabeled to include humans upon the disease’s arrival to American shores as early as the year 1960. However, doctors failed to initially notice it until they had discovered clusters of pneumocystis pneumonia and Kaposi’s sarcoma in young homosexual men in the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York city in 1981 (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017). Consequently, the gay community was blamed for spreading the virus and further fueled homophobia that was not uncommon opinion many decades ago. This particular strain was noted as HIV-1.
However, a second strain of the virus is a form of the aforementioned SIV naturally present in a monkey known as the sooty mangabey, primarily found along the African coastlines ranging from Ghana to Senegal. Known as HIV-2, this particular strain is far more rare in the United States and therefore more common in West Africa (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017). By comparison, HIV-1 is noted to progress more quickly to advanced, deadly stages as it is more virulent than HIV-2. As a result of the virus, one’s immune system becomes severely weakened to the point of almost non-functionality if left untreated. Because the immune system is the human body’s primary method of fighting infections, even the smallest exposure to bacteria leaves the body incredibly vulnerable to illness. Due to the fact it is an acquired disease, a number of catalysts exist that both spread and infect victims. The main avenue of transmission is for a clean person to make sexual contact (primarily via anal sex) with an infected partner. Furthermore, any instance in which the blood of the infected individual makes contact with a clean individual’s blood causes the virus to spread as well (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017). Fortunately, it is not airborne.
As of recent statistics, the United States has a population of approximately 1.2 million individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The dangerous part of this figure is that approximately 1 in 8 victims are unaware of their infection (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017). Despite the fact that the scope of the epidemic is considered relatively small compared to the population of over 350 million, it is heavily concentrated around several key areas. Particularly, southern states account for just under 45 percent of all victims which totals to 37 percent of the total population (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017). Nearly 40,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS are documented per year in the country while discrimination and stigmas continue to halt access to prevention measures, treatment and testing services which inevitably lead to more and more infections (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017). Populations most at risk are those who are comprised of individuals having sex within the confines of their own communities.
Unfortunately, the most affected groups of people include men who have sex with men (MSM) as they account for over two-thirds of new diagnoses. To make matters worse, infections are steadily increasing (e.g. up to 9 percent between 2010 and 2014) (HIV.gov, 2017). If the rates continue, approximately 1 in every 6 American MSM will find themselves diagnosed within their lifetime (HIV.gov, 2017). However, there are significant racial disparities as 1 in 2 black MSM, 1 in 4 Latino MSM, and 1 in 111 Caucasian MSM are prone to infection. African Americans, regardless of gender preference for sex, are the largest population of victims in the nation (HIV.gov, 2017). They have accounted for 44 percent of new cases and total to 43 percent of all citizens living with the disease despite only encompassing 12 percent of the population (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017). Up to 57 percent were MSMs and 39 percent were young males aged 13 to 24. Women are most likely to be infected via shared drug injection (needles) or having unprotected sex; accounting for 42 percent of new diagnoses. Estimates of over 1,300 Latino women and just under 1,500 Caucasian women were accounted for diagnosis year over year when compared to 5,128 black women (HIV.gov, 2017). The Hispanic community accounts for nearly 17 percent of all new diagnoses, with men comprising 86 percent of the new infections.
The population of incarcerated criminals in the United States is the largest of the entire world, with over 2.2 million in jail or a similar form of closed setting. Prevalence of HIV/AIDS amongst this group is figured at 1.5 percent compared to 0.5 percent in the general population (Avert, 2016). The majority of prisoners are infected well before their incarceration with estimates that 1 in every 7 of infected victims enter the system per year (Avert, 2016). Although heroin consumption is an increasing problem in America among nearly every single age group and income level; rising by a staggering 63 percent over the past 10 years, the annual number of new diagnoses of HIV from drug users decreased by 26 percent between 2010 and 2014 (Avert, 2016).
Results from the Center for Disease and Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found the primary catalysts of HIV amongst young people is identical to all age groups: low rates of testing (barely 10 percent of high school students who were sexually active reported testing), low rates of condom usage (less than 45 percent), and major substance abuse problems (over 20 percent consumed alcohol or other drugs before intercourse) (Avert, 2016). Given the scope of disease among the young, health authorities have adopted new problems that combine behavioral, structural, and medical interventions to target the most at risk populations.
- Avert. (2016, December 22). HIV AND AIDS IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA). Retrieved September 16, 2017, from https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv- around-world/western-central-europe-north-america/usa
- HIV.gov. (2017, June 19). U.S. Statistics. Retrieved September 16, 2017, from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/statistics
- Kaiser Family Foundation. (2017, February 2). The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the United States: The Basics. Retrieved September 16, 2017, from http://www.kff.org/hivaids/fact- sheet/the-hivaids-epidemic-in-the-united-states-the-basics/