Executive Summary: Making Change Real

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The 2009 edition of the Black AIDS Institute’s annual State of AIDS in Black America report lays out both the promise and the peril of the unique moment at which we’ve arrived in this epidemic.

On one hand, the historic election of Barack Obama and a congressional majority that has been more supportive of the AIDS fight offers great opportunity. Similarly, black America is engaged in the struggle to end AIDS like never before. Together, these two realities could create real, lasting change in the course of this epidemic.

At the same time, 2008 witnessed great setbacks, particularly in the effort to prevent the virus’ spread. We are seeing the outcome of too many years of neglect, at both the governmental and communal level.

The Challenges We Face

New infections. In 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its long-awaited study re-examining the size and depth of the U.S. epidemic. Using new technology that allows researchers to learn more detail about individual HIV infections, the CDC discovered, among other things:

*The U.S. epidemic is at least 40 percent larger than previously believed and growing by between 55,000 and 58,000 infections a year;

*The U.S. has never logged fewer than 50,000 new infections a year, contrary to prior belief that we leveled out at 40,000 new infections a year in the mid-1990s;

*Black Americans represented 45 percent of people newly infected in 2006, despite being just 13 percent of the population;

*Men who have sex with men accounted for 53 percent of all new infections in 2006, and young black men were particularly hard hit.

*In 2006, black gay and bisexual men between the ages of 13 and 29 accounted for more new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men than any other race or age group. And more than half, or 52 percent, of all black gay and bi men infected that year were under 30 years old.

Deaths. The racial disparity in AIDS deaths continued in data released last year:

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