HIV/AIDS Statistics Risk Factors and Barriers to Prevention
Race and ethnicity are not, by themselves, risk factors for HIV infection. However, American Indians and Alaska Natives are likely to face challenges associated with risk for HIV infection, including the following.
Sexual Risk Factors
The presence of a sexually transmitted disease can increase the chance of contracting or spreading HIV . High rates of Chlamydia trachomatis infection, gonorrhea, and syphilis among American Indians and Alaska Natives suggest that the sexual behaviors that facilitate the spread of HIV are relatively common among American Indians and Alaska Natives. According to 2005 surveillance data by race/ethnicity, the 2nd highest rates of gonorrhea and Chlamydia trachomatis infection were those for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The 3rd highest rate of syphilis was that for American Indians and Alaska Natives [4, 5].
Persons who use illicit drugs (casually or habitually) or who abuse alcohol are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol . Results of the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that the rate of current illicit drug use was higher among American Indians and Alaska Natives (12.8%) than among persons of other races or ethnicities .
To be effective, HIV/AIDS prevention interventions must be tailored to specific audiences. The American Indian and Alaska Native population makes up 564 federally recognized tribes plus at least 50 state-recognized tribes . Because each tribe has its own culture, beliefs, and practices and these tribes may be subdivided into language groups, it can be challenging to create programs for each group. Therefore, prevention programs that can be adapted to individual tribal cultures and beliefs are critically important. Current programs emphasize traditional teachings and the importance of the community.
Issues related to poverty (for example, lower levels of education and poorer access to health care) may directly or indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection . Socioeconomic factors, such as poverty, coexist with epidemiologic risk factors for HIV infection in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. During 2002–2004, approximately one quarter (24.3%) of American Indians and Alaska Natives - about twice the national average (12.4%) - were living in poverty . The proportion of the American Indian and Alaska Native population with a high school diploma (66%) in 1990 was less than the national average (75%) .
Life expectancy for American Indians and Alaska Natives is shorter than that for persons of other races/ethnicities in the United States; the rates of many diseases, including diabetes, tuberculosis, and alcoholism, are higher; and access to health care is poorer [12, 13]. These indicators demonstrate the vulnerability of American Indians and Alaska Natives to additional health stress, including HIV infection.
HIV Testing Issues
Access to HIV testing and issues concerning confidentiality are important for many American Indians and Alaska Natives. For example, at the time of AIDS diagnosis, more American Indians and Alaska Natives, compared with persons of other races/ethnicities, resided in rural areas .
Those who live in rural areas may be less likely to be tested for HIV because of limited access to testing. Also, American Indians and Alaska Natives may be less likely to seek testing because of concerns about confidentiality in close-knit communities, where someone who seeks testing is likely to encounter a friend, a relative, or an acquaintance at the local health care facility.
During 1997–2000, 50.5% of American Indians and Alaska Natives who responded to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey reported that they had never been tested for HIV. This percentage was higher in the southwestern United States, where 58.1% of the American Indians and Alaska Natives reported never having been tested .
Current data regarding HIV infection and AIDS among American Indians and Alaska Natives have limitations.
- Incomplete surveillance data. Not all states with large American Indian and Alaska Native populations have been conducting HIV surveillance. For example, California began HIV surveillance only during the past few years and thus is not included in these data.
- Racial misclassification and underreporting.Even though the numbers of diagnoses for American Indians and Alaska Natives are relatively low, these numbers may be affected by racial misclassification. Studies in Alaska and Los Angeles have shown that the degree of misclassification differs geographically. In Alaska, 3% of American Indians and Alaska Natives with HIV/AIDS were misclassified as being of another race; in Los Angeles, 56% of American Indians and Alaska Natives with AIDS were racially misclassified [16, 17].
In the United States, the annual number of new HIV infections has declined from a peak of more than 150,000 during the mid-1980s and has stabilized since the late 1990s at approximately 40,000. Persons of minority races/ethnicities are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. To reduce further the incidence of HIV infection, CDC announced Advancing HIV Prevention (AHP) in 2003. This initiative comprises 4 strategies: making HIV testing a routine part of medical care, implementing new models for diagnosing HIV infections outside medical settings, preventing new infections by working with HIV-infected persons and their partners, and further decreasing perinatal HIV transmission.
Through AHP, CDC conducted demonstration projects in American Indian and Alaska Native communities to examine ways to make voluntary HIV testing a routine part of medical care and to implement new models for diagnosing HIV infections outside medical settings. Preliminary data show that through these projects, over 2,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives were tested for HIV. Demonstration projects were conducted at the following sites:
- Salt Lake City, Utah, where a community-based organization (CBO) partnered with the Indian Walk-In Center to offer routine testing—including rapid testing at some sites—to 5 tribal entities and 11 reservations.
- Phoenix, Arizona, where a CBO conducted routine HIV testing in nontraditional settings (e.g., health fairs, powwows) through local outreach.
- Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe and the Chippewa Indian Sault Tribe Health Center conducted routine HIV testing for clients aged 17 to 49. Rapid testing was conducted simultaneously at 1 main health center and 4 satellite clinics as well as an urgent care clinic.
CDC, through the Minority AIDS Initiative, supports efforts to reduce the health disparities experienced in communities of persons of minority races/ethnicities who are at high risk for HIV. These funds are used to address high-priority HIV prevention needs in such communities. The following are some CDC-funded prevention programs that state and local health departments and CBOs provide for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
- Helping tribes develop or expand
HIV prevention services and improve services for persons infected with, or affected
- Building and strengthening the capacity of tribal organizations and urban Indian health centers throughout the United States to develop effective HIV prevention through intertribal networking and collaboration
- Providing HIV prevention education in rural Alaska Native communities and implementing an evidence-based intervention, Community PROMISE, in the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta and Maniilaq regions.
Understanding HIV and AIDS Data
AIDS surveillance: Through a uniform system, CDC receives reports of AIDS cases from all US states and territories. Since the beginning of the epidemic, these data have been used to monitor trends because they are representative of all areas. The data are statistically adjusted for reporting delays and for the redistribution of cases initially reported without risk factors. As treatment has become more available, trends in new AIDS diagnoses no longer accurately represent trends in new HIV infections; these data now represent persons who are tested late in the course of HIV infection, who have limited access to care, or in whom treatment has failed.
HIV surveillance: Monitoring trends in the HIV epidemic today requires collecting information on HIV cases that have not progressed to AIDS. Areas with confidentialname-based HIV infection reporting requirementsuse the same uniform system for data collection on HIV cases as for AIDS cases. A total of 33 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) have collected these data for at least 5 years, providing sufficient data to monitor HIV trends and to estimate risk behaviors for HIV infection.
HIV/AIDS: This term is used to refer to 3 categories of diagnoses collectively: (1) a diagnosis of HIV infection (not AIDS), (2) a diagnosis of HIV infection and a later diagnosis of AIDS, and (3) concurrent diagnoses of HIV infection and AIDS.
Refer to the Fact Sheet PDF [PDF - 693KB]