Left behind: Who’s being treated for HIV in the U.S. — and who isn’t
January 15, 2016
A major insurer said recently it would offer life insurance to HIV-positive people because of their rising life expectancies, prompting cheers from AIDS activists. But on the very same day, the nation’s top disease control official described an America falling far short in its fight against AIDS.
It might seem a jarring disconnect — but it reflects very different realities dividing the estimated 1.2 million Americans living with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.
While life expectancies are approaching the national norm among white, affluent gay men, about 66 percent of the 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States are not in treatment, imperiling their health and putting them at risk for infecting others.
African-Americans, mostly gay or bisexual men, account for nearly half of the approximately 45,000 Americans infected with HIV each year. Both African-Americans and Latinos are less likely to remain in treatment than whites. Compared to white men, African American men were more than seven times and Latino men were almost twice as likely to die from HIV-related complications.
HIV/AIDS activists and physicians say that despite the significant medical advances in treating the disease, many patients are being left behind because of their life circumstances. Groups that once held angry demonstrations against government agencies and pharmaceutical companies to speed access to affordable, life-saving HIV medications now emphasize the socioeconomic barriers that keep some people living with HIV from consistently obtaining and using those drugs to remain healthy.