Since the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there has been a shift in who and where the epidemic affects. Currently, African Americans, both men and women are disproportionately affected and the Deep South has become the epicenter, including small rural areas. There are many factors related to living in the South which is vital to understanding the current HIV/AIDS epidemic; some of which may include more pronounced racism, religious beliefs, poverty, and homophobia, lack access to health care and health care insurance as well as a distrust of health care systems preventing them from practicing primary prevention measures. Many theorize that these factors may contribute to more HIV-related stigma which is fueling the increase. Therefore, it is critical that theory-based, culturally sensitive and methodologically sound studies be conducted to develop interventions aimed at decreasing the incidence of HIV infection and improve the lives of those infected.

The Black Church has substantiated itself as a foundational support for the African American community not only for its spiritual needs, but also for educational, political, and economic support. African American churches have become increasingly involved in battling health disparities, particularly in the areas of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular prevention. However, the Black Church has been slow in embracing the HIV/AIDS epidemic because of the difficult and complex issues attached to risk behaviors that are associated with the disease. However, the increasing disparity of HIV/AIDS in the Black community, particularly in the Deep South has embraced the engagement of faith-based leaders in the epidemic. For example, in 2006, the Centers for Disease Control convened a meeting for Black faith-based leaders to elicit their help in increasing awareness of the disease in their communities and support for prevention activities such as testing. Additionally, strategies such as the Week of Prayer for HIV/AIDS by the Balm in Gilead has been a way to increase awareness among faith leaders in the African American community as well as engage them in education and treatment of those with HIV. Local involvement is critical not only for community support and culturally appropriate interventions, but also for sustained, relevant outcomes.

US HIV Statistics 2018

  • Black/African American people made up 42% (16,002) of the 37,968 new HIV diagnoses in the U.S and dependent areas in 2018, who comprise 13% of the U.S population.
  • Among all African Americans diagnosed with HIV, an estimated 75% were men, and 25% were among women.
  • At the end of 2018, an estimated 1.2 million people had HIV. Of those, 482,900 were among Black/African American people.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Alabama’s HIV Statistics 2018

  • 28% of Alabama’s population identified Black in 2018.
  • In 2018, the rate of HIV diagnoses among Black males was eight times that of White males.
  • In 2018, the rate of HIV diagnoses among Black females was nine times that of White females.
  • The newly diagnosed HIV rate among Blacks in 2018 is nearly three times that of the total state rate.

Source: Alabama Department of Public Health, Division of STI/HIV Prevention and Control.