About Race, Poverty, and that CDC HIV Study.

Kai Wright breaks down a recent CDC study about the effect that poverty has on HIV transmission. The study shows a much higher rate of HIV infection among heterosexual poor people in the U.S. But Wright debunks the following too-obvious takeaway from the study: that poverty, not race has the greatest effect on HIV transmission rates. Quoting the Black AIDS Institute, he notes:

If poverty breeds deadly disease, as this study suggests, neither the disease nor the poverty is evenly distributed in society. African Americans account for roughly half of all people living with HIV in the U.S. That ought to be no surprise, given the remarkable poverty rates among black people. My colleagues at the Black AIDS Institute put it well in a statement today:

Some media organizations are erroneously concluding that race is not a factor in HIV transmission in this population. This is a false choice and an absurd and dangerous conclusion. The point is not whether race or poverty matters, the point is race and poverty matter. Black people are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. One of the reasons this is so is because we are poor. Seventy-seven percent of the participants in the study were Black and the majority of the residents in the communities surveyed were Black.

Concentrated poverty, not black pathology or culture, has a lot to do with the issues that are often perceived to be “black problems.” This includes the poor school performance and high rates of obesity also found among poor whites and Latinos. But when we look at the fact that fully half of the people in this country with HIV are black, but only 25 percent of black people (“only” is still double the national poverty rate) are are living in poverty, it’s clear that there’s more than poverty at play here.

I don’t think it’s necessary to say that I reject the idea that there’s something about blackness that causes these concentrated negative effects, but I guess I’ll say it anyway. On the flip side of that, I do hate to use some vague notion of RACISM!!! to explain it, either. But there have been, and there remain, real barriers to blacks getting healthcare, compounded by incidents of blatant racism during the days of Jim Crow. And while more research should be done to uncover the root of the stunningly high rate of HIV infection among black people and poor people, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that a combination of racism-as-personal-animus from healthcare providers and racism-as-institutional-barrier have come together to incubate a number of health issues in black folks, both poor and middle-class.

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  • Tania

    People need to be honest about what glorifying the prison culture has done to the “black community.” Men having sex with men then coming out and having sex with MULTIPLE women is spiking the HIV rate. All of this sugar coating about what goes on in the dark behind bars and this “give the brother a chance” dating mentality is capping off an already downward spiral in the hood.

  • Aisha Moore

    @Tania that comment is very off the mark. Having unprotected sex with multiple people is what puts a person at risk. Nothing more to it.

    @Shani What other research do you suggest? The answer is really clear to me. When a person’s basic needs aren’t met they may put themselves at risk in order to get those needs met.