According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1.2 million people in the United States live with HIV. More than 161,000 may be unaware that they have the virus.

While HIV transmission is the same for people of all races and ethnicities, some races are affected by HIV more than others.

HIV disproportionately affects people of color. The highest number of new cases are seen in Black adults and adolescents.

Several reasons may contribute to higher cases of HIV in people of color, including:

  • stigma
  • racial discrimination
  • income and poverty
  • lack of medical insurance
  • lack of access to medical care
  • education
  • language barriers
  • geographic location

Learn more about what experts know about HIV and race, and how certain groups are disproportionately affected by this virus.

Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s, HIV has affected Black Americans more than any other race or ethnicity.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, statistics from 2018 data show that while 12 percent of the U.S. population is Black, the same group experienced 43 percent of all new HIV cases that year.

Furthermore, the death rate from HIV is higher for Black Americans than any other race, at about 44 percent.

There’s a continuing downward trend in new HIV cases in Black women. However, Black men are affected by HIV more than women. In 2018, Black men had the highest number of new HIV diagnoses.

In comparison, white Americans made up an estimated 60 percent of the U.S. population in 2018, but consisted of 29 percent of newly reported HIV cases.

Hispanic and Latino people were estimated to comprise 18 percent of the population, and reported 23 percent of new cases, too.

The CDC recommends that people ages 13 to 64 get an HIV test at least once during their lifetime, preferably during an annual physical.

Adolescents and adults with higher risks for HIV may need to be tested annually. This includes:

  • men who have sex with men
  • people who inject drugs
  • anyone who has had sex with an HIV-positive partner

Despite such recommendations, though, there are significant differences in HIV testing statistics between different racial and ethnic groups.

For example, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2014 about 76 percent of Black adults over the age of 18 reportedly had an HIV test compared with 58 percent of Latinos and 50 percent of white adults.

The foundation’s report found that 20 percent of Black people who tested positive for HIV found out late in the infection and later received an AIDS diagnosis up to 3 months later. These scenarios were found in 22 percent of white people and 21 percent of Hispanic or Latino people by comparison.

However, there still remains a disconnect between getting tested and having access to care among Black people.

While more Black adults may be tested — and receive these tests earlier — only 60 percent are immediately referred to further healthcare services, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

To treat HIV and prevent its progression, it’s important to start antiretroviral therapy (ART) as soon possible. But the racial disparities that exist in access to healthcare and insurance continue to affect Black Americans with HIV.

In 2018 only about 51 percent of Black people with HIV were considered to be virally suppressed, reports the CDC. A similarly low viral suppression rate was found in Latinos with HIV, at about 53 percent.

Geography is another factor in HIV transmission.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017 statistics show that HIV tends to be most clustered in the Southern United States overall, with the highest rates among Black adults and adolescents being in Florida.

New York followed closely, with Georgia, Texas, and Maryland rounding out the top five states.

Still, there are other geographical considerations to take into account. For example, urban areas may see higher rates of HIV transmission due to more people residing in these areas.

On the other hand, more severe illness — and lack of testing — is possible in rural areas that may not have the medical facilities that cities have.

Declining HIV cases among some Black Americans shows progress, but this group is still affected the most overall.

While HIV is transmitted in the same ways for people of all races, some risk factors may explain why some races and ethnicities are affected more than others. This includes discrimination, lack of access to healthcare, and income disparities.

Public health officials continue to try to improve HIV prevention and care among the groups that are the most vulnerable.

If you think you might have been exposed to HIV, it’s important to get tested so you may begin treatment as soon as possible.