U.Va. Professor Asserts HIV/AIDS Epidemic Has Reached ‘State of Emergency' Among African Americans

January 28, 2008 — African Americans comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population and now account for nearly half of newly diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS. "The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African-American community has reached a state of emergency and there are signs that it is only intensifying," said Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., University Professor and Lillian T. Pratt Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Virginia.  

Laurencin chairs the Board of Directors of the W. Montague Cobb/National Medical Association Health Institute, an organization dedicated to addressing disparities in health among African Americans. Laurencin was lead author of a report published in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association. The study reviewed the current state of HIV/AIDS in African Americans and issued a call for action among clinicians, researchers and the African-American community at large.

"African Americans remain disproportionately affected by high rates of HIV/AIDS," observed Laurencin. "The intention of our report was to heighten awareness among health care providers and community leaders and to provide information that will help urgently combat this crisis. To be effective, prevention strategies must address the risk factors, community beliefs and health care access issues of African Americans."

According to the report, many factors contribute to the HIV/AIDS epidemic among African Americans. Key factors include high-risk sexual contact, substance abuse, socio-economic status, access to health care and undiagnosed HIV.        

Looking ahead, the report called for expanded HIV-prevention interventions and the implementation of new, improved and culturally-appropriate HIV/AIDS strategies. It also noted initiatives now underway at the Centers for Disease Control and urged the biomedical community to be a major driving force in the execution and success of new programs for the African-American community.

Laurencin's co-authors were Donna M. Christensen, M.D., of the Congressional Black Caucus and Erica D. Taylor, M.D., of the University of Virginia Health System.