The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the continuous racial disparities as it relates to the HIV epidemic and its overlap with the current health crisis in Black communities, according to a commentary in a Lancet series on HIV in the United States.
Parallels have been drawn between HIV and COVID-19 with regards to Black communities. Similar to the HIV epidemic, Black communities were disproportionally affected by COVID-19 pandemic due to the health inequities affecting racial and ethnic minorities in the Unities States.
In 2018, Black Americans accounted for 42% of new HIV diagnoses and 44% of HIV-related deaths, while representing only 13.4% of the US population. Additionally, Black, non-Hispanic Americans accounted for 15.3% of COVID-19-related deaths, according to data from February 7, 2021. This death rate is 1.5 times higher than the rate among White, non-Hispanic Americans.
Study authors note that these syndemics are distinct disease burdens on Black communities that “mirror the social inequities and disadvantages reverberating from centuries of racial oppression and civil and human rights violations.” Despite having awareness of these health inequities, prevention and treatment efforts of such diseases ignore the underlying social determinants of healthcare.
“Ending HIV cannot be accomplished without dismantling these systems of oppression,” the authors stated. As a result, neither of these epidemics will be resolved without addressing the economic and environmental challenges Black and other marginalized populations at increased risk face.
“Policy, public health, clinician, and community stakeholders must prioritize strategies that attend to the social inequities at the intersection of race, gender, class, age, and sexuality that compound the impacts of HIV and COVID-19 in Black communities,” the authors write. “The racial disparities that so rapidly emerged with COVID-19 are a reminder that until these inequities are addressed, disparities in HIV and COVID-19 outcomes will persist and ending the HIV epidemic will remain elusive.”
Fields EL, Copeland R, Hopkins E. Same script, different viruses: HIV and COVID-19 in US Black communities. Lancet. Published online February 18, 2021. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32522-8