Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persist in HIV Diagnoses

A portrait studio shot of professor Erika Martin, wearing a red shirt and black cardigan.
Erika Martin

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 14, 2021) — While HIV infection rates are declining, a recent study led by the University in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Emory University, shows that racial and ethnic disparities remain in HIV diagnoses among heterosexually active adults in the United States.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, found that heterosexually active women had a higher HIV diagnosis rate than heterosexually active men. In addition, Black adults had a 20-fold higher HIV diagnosis rate and Hispanic adults had a 4-fold higher diagnosis rate compared to White heterosexually active adults.

“These racial and ethnic disparities were high across all of the subnational regions,” explains Erika Martin, an associate professor in Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy and lead author of the paper. “This suggests a system-wide failure in preventing HIV among Black and Latina women in particular.”

The number of heterosexually active adults by state, race and ethnicity, and sex was estimated by a meta-analysis of several national surveys. HIV diagnoses were then placed on top of this data to determine rates, broken down by race and ethnicity, based on sex and state. Although there are existing estimates of population rates, the research team’s approach to develop denominators of heterosexually active adults is a more appropriate method for calculating population rates and this is the first study to develop these population estimates at a state level. Bahareh Ansari, a doctoral student in the Information Science program, was the lead analyst.

“Focused efforts are needed to lessen persistent racial and ethnic disparities in HIV prevention and treatment,” Martin says. “Further coordinated federal responses may help to ensure that the needs of all communities are met, particularly if interventions are culturally responsive.”

This work was conducted by the Coalition for Applied Modeling and Prevention (CAMP), a cooperative agreement funded by the CDC which has been based at UAlbany’s School of Public Health since 2019 and includes academic partners from a half dozen other universities. CAMP develops epidemiological and economic models to predict the answers to important public health questions.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of CAMP is our close collaboration with our CDC partners. The CAMP projects led by the University at Albany also leverage our strong partnerships with the New York State Department of Health,” says Martin. “We benefit enormously from CAMP’s advisory groups of national experts in policy and practice who provide frequent input on our work. These partnerships and public engagement allow us to focus on high-priority issues and enhance the dissemination of our findings to policy and practice.”